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The government today said it has received as many as 141 initial proposals for operating flight and helicopter services on 502 routes, including to Haridwar, Srinagar and Tirupati, under the second bidding round of regional air connectivity scheme.
Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said the second round of bidding has attracted "very good response" and that 17 players have come up with initial proposals.
The ambitious scheme, where fares are capped at Rs 2,500 for one-hour flights, seeks to connect unserved and under- served airports. It is also known as Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN).
The initial proposals involve 502 routes that seek to connect a total of 126 airports and helipads. These include 49 unserved and 15 under-served airports as well as 24 helipads, according to the civil aviation ministry.
Out of the total proposals, 108 are for flying fixed wing aircraft and 33 for operating helicopters.
The proposals are for starting flights from airports in 76 places spread across the country. These include Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Sikkim, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Assam, West Bengal and Punjab.
The proposed air services, include those to connect Haridwar, Tezpur, Tirupati, Srinagar, Shillong and Imphal.
According to the ministry, there are proposals for helicopter services to Haridwar, Almora, Joshimath and Itanagar, among other places.
Civil Aviation Secretary R N Choubey said that for 20 proposals no viability gap funding has been sought by the bidders.
Operators participating in UDAN are eligible to get viability gap funding.
"UDAN is on right track," Raju said citing the number of initial proposals received in the second round of bidding.
On November 16, these proposals would be put up for counter bidding and the players in the second round are likely to be declared by the third week of December.
"In 70 years of Independence, we had 70 active airports. With UDAN, we will make 80 more airports active within one year," Raju said.
In the first round of bidding under the scheme, 128 routes that would connect 70 airports were awarded to five airlines. Some of the routes are already operational.
From the first round, operations have commenced from 13 RCS (Regional Connectivity Scheme) airports and 12 others are ready but airlines are yet to start operating flights from there, Choubey said.
Around 18 airports require significant upgradation and those works are expected to be completed in four months' time, he added.