Taj city Agra may soon get a brand new international air terminal at Dhanuali, close to the Kheria IAF base in Lucknow, if the project gets the green signal from the union civil aviation ministry, says an official.
After visiting the terminal site, Raghu Raman, general manager-planning of the Airports Authority of India (AAI), held extensive discussions on the project with local administration officials and tourism industry leaders.
Mr Raman told reporters on Friday evening that a detailed proposal would now be sent to the ministry within a week and, if approved, "construction would begin soon".
"It may take around 18 months to two years for the terminal to be ready," Mr Raman said.
The AAI is currently unable to optimally utilise the facilities at Kheria airport. Apart from government planes and some chartered flights, domestic majors like Air India and Kingfisher operate from here only during peak tourist season (October-March).
According to airport officer Kuldeep Singh, besides state government planes, about 60 chartered flights landed here last year.
AAI is spending around Rs.40,00,000-50,00,000 a year on maintaining the existing facilities at the airport but "this expenditure is of little use as regular flights do not touch Agra", officials said.
Officials were hopeful that there would be no hassles in acquiring 60 acres of agricultural land near the village to construct the new terminal building after paying adequate compensation to the farmers.
The airport terminal project for Agra was accorded priority after the new Samajwadi Party government took over in Uttar Pradesh in March this year.
"The Akhilesh Yadav government wants the terminal urgently. Besides, several other projects are being discussed at the highest level, including an international airport at Baldev in Mathura district," Rajiv Tiwari, president of tourism industry body Federation of Indian Travel Agents told IANS.
"The tourism industry in Agra is demanding that immediate steps be taken to get flights resumed from Kheria airport before the start of the new tourist season. We recently submitted a memorandum to the chief minister, requesting him to grant concessions on fuel purchases and provide certain facilities at the airport," Mr Tiwari said.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) has now equipped its Kheria air base with night landing facilities and the runway has also been extended after repairs.
The new terminal could accelerate the growth of tourism sector in this region that draws a large number of foreign visitors, tourism industry sources in Agra aver.