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325 more routes awarded under RCS-2, IndiGo, Jet Airways &
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helicopters join in
(Eds: Updating with more details)
New Delhi, Jan 24 (PTI) The government today awarded 325 more routes to airlines as well as helicopter operators under its regional connectivity scheme (RCS) with an emphasis on enhancing flight services to hilly and remote areas, including Kargil.
A total of 56 new airports and helipads are being connected to 36 existing aerodromes, according to Ministry of Civil Aviation.
The routes have been awarded to 15 airlines and helicopter operators after the bidding process for second round of RCS, also known as UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik), which aims to connect tier-2 and tier-3 cities and take flying to the masses.
While helicopter operators did not show any interest in the first round of the RCS, four of them have been granted rights to fly on selected routes this time.
As per the scheme, RCS flights' fares are capped at Rs 2,500 per hour of flight for fixed wing aircraft and for 30 minutes on a helicopter.
Airline operators have to offer half of their seats at discounted rates and helicopter operators can offer up to 13 seats at lower fares.
In return for the seats offered at cheaper rates, the government provides subsidy or viability gap funding (VGF) to airlines and helicopter operators.
Among the major aviation players, IndiGo and Jet Airways, too have been granted routes, in addition to SpiceJet and Air India subsidiary Alliance Air who participated in the previous round as well.
In the first round of RCS, a total of 128 routes were awarded to five players, none of which were helicopters.
With the emphasis strongly on enhancing connectivity to remote and hilly terrain in the northeast and hill states, 40 per cent of the total routes awarded are from these regions at 129.
The government has aimed to connect 41 airports and helipads in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur and Uttarakhand.
Of the total 56 new airports and helipads, the latter account for 31, i.e., nearly 70 per cent.
"Since independence, we had 75 airports in connected by scheduled airlines. UDAN 1 and 2 have added around 80 airports in the country. UDAN 2 has also addressed the problem of (poor air connectivity) to difficult areas," Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said at a media briefing.
He said that it was encouraging to see that many participants sought no subsidy.
"This tells us that the scheme is getting the desired result and that it will not require any subsidy after some time and is moving towards self-sustainability," Raju added.
SpiceJet and IndiGo have not sought VGF for some of the routes awarded to them, a senior ministry official said.
Civil Aviation Secretary R N Choubey also illustrated how small cities will enjoy improved flight services.
"For the first time Kargil will have connectivity. Darbhanga is going to be connected to Bengaluru, Delhi and Mumbai. Hubli is going to be connected to nine other cities in the country.
"Kannur in Kerala is going to be connected to eight cities. There will be flights from Pakyong in Sikkim to Delhi, Guwahati and Kolkata. Allahabad is getting connected to 12 cities in the country," Choubey said.
The scheme is estimated to add total 28.4 lakh RCS seats to the domestic aviation traffic.
Junior minister Jayant Sinha said that UDAN will add 4-5 per cent to the total passenger trips in the country.
In order to fund the subsidy, Airports Authority of India will also be providing partial contribution from its dividend share, in addition to the levy of Rs 5,000 per flight being imposed on non-RCS operations.
AAI has given Rs 200 crore for RCS in the current fiscal, and is likely to contribute Rs 500 crore in the next fiscal.
The second round of RCS will need VGF of Rs 620 crore, while the first round required Rs 213 crore. PTI JC ZMN ASK ASK
Disclaimer: This story has not been edited by BW staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.