Normal international flights by year-end, says Civil Aviation Secretary

Source: Business Standards, 25 November 2021

International passenger flights are expected to regularise possibly by the end of the year, Civil Aviation Secretary Rajiv Bansal said on Wednesday.

A restart of scheduled international commercial passenger flights will increase travel options for passengers, and potentially lower airfares. The move comes close on the heels of India reopening its borders to foreign tourists from November 15 amid pressure from travel companies, foreign governments, and members of the Indian diaspora.

At present, scheduled international passenger flights are suspended till November 30. Right now, flights are being operated under air transport bubble agreements. While these are scheduled flights, airlines are allowed to sell tickets for only a limited number of destinations. In the case of certain countries, bubble agreements allow for only point-to-point traffic. While the government has asserted it wants a return to normalcy, its decision will also be guided by the Covid-19 situation in certain parts of the world.

The number of international flights operating to/from India now are around 40-45 per cent of the pre-pandemic period.

In the winter schedule of 2019, there were around 1,200 daily international flights. On November 23, 495 international flights were operated to/from India, ferrying over 75,000 air passengers.

The number of destinations linked with India, too, has halved. In the winter schedule, India had direct air connectivity to 60 countries. India has entered into air transport bubble/corridor arrangements with 31 countries, permitting two-way traffic.

Even under the bubble pact, the actual capacity deployed (or flights operated) is lower than the pre-pandemic period. For instance, Indian and United Arab Emirates airlines can offer 33,600 weekly seats each between India and Dubai (which is the busiest international destination from India).

Prior to the pandemic, carriers were allowed to operate over 65,000 seats each. Airlines, however, have increased flights between India and Sharjah since there is no agreement on allowing more capacity to Dubai. In the case of Canada as well, the number of flights operated now is higher than in 2019.

Last week, travel agents wrote to the government to restart scheduled international passenger flights to enable foreign tourists to visit India.

“Airfares on limited bubble flights have increased multifold and airlines, too, are ensuring higher fare categories are being sold. Many international airlines had accepted bookings for future dates and are now cancelling these flights, causing further inconvenience to air travellers. Similarly, for Indian students, there is a huge challenge to return to their colleges in Europe, the UK, the US, and Canada,” said the Travel Agents Association of India, in a letter to Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia.

Those planning to return to India during their Christmas break or early January, too, are facing challenges in getting seats. Flights are sold out, and fares, too, are sky high. For instance, the demand on the US-India route began picking up in September and fights started filling up after both countries announced EASING OF border restrictions in October.

“The return economy airfare from the US to India (for travel in December and January) ranges anywhere between $2,500 and $3,500 on average. Pre-pandemic times, economy class fares were in the range of $1,800 and $2,200 during the high season,” said Arvin Shah, chairman of US-based Sky Bird Travel & Tours. According to Shah, the demand for travel between the US and India is led by the leisure segment and those visiting families. There is no demand for corporate travel as yet, he clarified.

In winter schedule 2019 there were around 1,200 daily international flights to/from India
495 international flights were operated on November 23
Prior to pandemic India had direct air connectivity with around 60 countries. At present air transport bubbles have been signed with 31 countries. Charter and repatriation flights too are being operated to certain countries
India opened for foreign tourists from November 15. Travel agents seeking resumption of scheduled international flights as limited number of flights has led to higher airfares

DHL Express opens new facility at Bangalore airport, plans to invest EUR 22 mn in 10 years

Source: Economic Times, 28 October 2021

DHL Express on Thursday opened its new and expanded express handling airside facility within the Bangalore International Airport with an investment of EUR 22 million (about Rs 200 crore) over the next 10 years.

Spread over in 1,12,000 sq ft of space, and four times larger than the previous one, the facility can handle over 90,000 tonnes of shipment per year when operating at full capacity, the company said.

The additional capacity at the expanded Bengaluru Gateway enables DHL Express to offer 12 to 24 hours faster connection and delivery of imported goods across India, and reduce daily cut-off time for shipment pick-up by up to 60 minutes, it said.

Using 11 DHL-operated intercontinental freighters, 30 international commercial airlines and 70 domestic flights on a weekly basis, the Bengaluru Gateway at present connects both South and West India to over 220 countries and territories through DHL’s unrivalled global network.

The Gateway’s primary export trade lanes are North America and Europe while Asia Pacific and Europe are the key import trade lanes for Bengaluru.

“As one of the world’s fastest growing economies, India remains a critical node of the global DHL network. The Bengaluru Gateway is part of our EUR 750 million investment to bolster our infrastructure in Asia Pacific and enhance connectivity for countries and businesses,” said Ken Lee, CEO, DHL Express Asia Pacific.

With strong international imports and exports driving the increasing cargo volume in Bengaluru, the new facility supports Bengaluru’s strategy to provide capacity of one million tons at its airport in the next few years, he said.

An additional six dedicated intercontinental freighters will join the current fleet by November 2021, bringing the total number of aircraft operating through Bengaluru to 17, DHL Express said.

The expanded Gateway will provide greater capacity to support industries such as electronics, automotive, life sciences and medical, and fashion in Bengaluru, it said.

Coupled with the enhanced infrastructure and additional dedicated DHL flights, these trade lanes will greatly benefit from the increased capacity and speed, according to the company.

Ten years ago, DHL landed its first freighter in Bengaluru and opened its Gateway at the Kempegowda International Airport. Since then, it has seen the international volumes multiply significantly, said RS Subramanian, SVP and Managing Director, DHL Express India

“Our EUR 22 million investment commitment is testament to the growth potential we see in this market. To maintain our market-leading position, we will continually invest ahead of the curve in our infrastructure, technology and people to support the country’s economic growth and help Indian exporters and importers expand their business,” he said.

Indian Railways’ DFC & Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train Corridor projects on fast-track for timely completion

Source: Financial Express, 09 September 2021

Indian Railways’ ambitious projects including Dedicated Freight Corridor and Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail reviewed! On Wednesday, Raosaheb Patil Danve, Minister of State for Railways chaired the review meeting of important ongoing projects of the national transporter at Western Railway zone’s HQ office, located in Churchgate, Mumbai. The minister reviewed the progress of the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (WDFC), which is being implemented by Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India (DFCCIL) and Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train Corridor Project, being executed by National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL), for the portion falling in the state of Maharashtra.

According to a press release issued by the Western Railway zone, during the meeting, the Minister of State for Railways was apprised of the various stages of progress of these major rail projects, including the process of land acquisition as well as rehabilitation of Project Affected People. The release further mentioned that Danve directed the concerned officials of these ongoing Indian Railways’ projects including the officials of state government to expedite the work for completion of these railway projects within the stipulated time period in order to avoid cost as well as time over runs. The minister also emphasized on the importance of these two rail projects.

The DFC project (Eastern and Western DFCs) is being executed by adopting state-of-the-art and world-class technology. The recently reviewed WDFC covers 1504 kilometres’ distance of double line electric track from JNPT in the city of Mumbai to Dadri passing through Vadodara, Ahmedabad, Palanpur, Phulera and Rewari. The Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail corridor, once completed, will cover a length of 508.17 kilometres in total. It will be the nation’s first Bullet Train corridor. The Bullet Train running on the high-speed rail corridor will boast a speed of 320 km per hour, covering 12 stations namely Mumbai, Boisar, Thane, Virar (in Maharashtra), Bilimora, Sabarmati, Surat, Vapi, Anand, Vadodara, Bharuch and Ahmedabad (in Gujarat).

Industrial-warehousing spaces leasing in Jan-June up 31% in top 5 cities: Report

Source: Economic Times, 30 August 2021

Leasing of industrial and warehousing spaces in five major cities rose 31 percent during the first six months of this year mainly driven by growth in e-commerce activities, according to property consultant Colliers. The leasing of industrial and warehousing spaces increased to 10.1 million sq ft during January-June this year from 7.7 million sq ft in the corresponding period of the previous year despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

The five cities tracked by Colliers India are — Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi NCR, Mumbai and Pune.

New supply jumped over two-folds to 15.1 million sq ft from 7.3 million sq ft during the period under review.

Third-party logistics (3PL) companies and e-commerce firms accounted for almost 31 percent and 22 percent of the total demand, respectively.

“Demand for industrial and warehousing space will not only come from e-commerce, 3PLs, but also from medical suppliers, exporters and cold storage operators,” said Ramesh Nair, Chief Executive Officer India & Managing Director, Market Development, Asia, Colliers.

With same-day delivery becoming the norm, Nair said there will be significant activity in smaller facilities closer to cities, needed for last-mile delivery.

“The market will also see sizeable repurposing of defunct spaces into Grade A industrial spaces,” he said.

Nair expects demand from 3PL and e-commerce firms to remain resilient in the coming quarters.

“The behavioral shift of consumers from offline to online shopping is contributing to increased demand across the spectrum of industrial and logistics property,” said Shyam Arumugam, Managing Director, Industrial & Logistics Services (India), Colliers.

According to the data, leasing of industrial and warehousing spaces increased in Bengaluru to 2 million sq ft during January-June 2021 from 0.8 million sq ft in the year-ago period.

In Delhi-NCR, the leasing rose marginally to 3 million sq ft from 2.9 million sq ft.

Chennai saw rise in demand to 1.7 million sq ft from 1.3 million sq ft.

The absorption or leasing of spaces in Pune increased to 2.7 million sq ft from 1.4 million sq ft.

However, the demand fell in Mumbai that saw leasing of only 0.7 million sq ft during January-June 2021 as against 1.4 million sq ft in the same period of last year.

On the supply front, Colliers said that developers are focusing on completing their projects to meet rising demand.

Overall vacancy rate was at just over 12 percent with both Bengaluru and Chennai having the lowest vacancy rate of 6.3 percent.

Pune and Delhi NCR have the highest vacancy rates at 17.9 percent and 17.4 percent, respectively.

Rentals appreciated in all the five cities during January-June 2021 compared to the last year.

Bengaluru saw the steepest rise of about 19 percent as demand outpaced supply.

Indian aviation market to be ‘very large’ by FY30; to accommodate both Indian, Middle East carriers: CAPA Advisory

Source: Economic Times, 26 August 2021

The impact on competition from the Gulf airlines has been a key concern for Indian carriers but as the market is expected to be very large by the financial year 2030, it can accommodate Indian as well as Middle Eastern carriers without strategic conflicts, CAPA Advisory said on Thursday. In a post-webinar presentation, CAPA Advisory projected that by 2029-30 India’s international traffic is estimated to increase by 50-60 million annual passengers from pre-COVID levels to reach 115-125 million.

Hosted by CAPA, the webinar was on ‘India-Middle East Aviation Dialogue: A Win-Win Outcome is Feasible and Likely’.

It said more than 30 per cent of the country’s international origin destination traffic is on long- and ultra-long haul routes. The domestic carriers are expected to add just around 70 wide-body planes by FY30, which is likely to address only half of the incremental long-haul demand, it added.

“However, the market will be very large and can accommodate Indian and Middle Eastern carriers without strategic conflicts. In fact, Indian carriers alone will not be able to meet projected demand. Such a scenario would constrain economic outcomes,” CAPA said in the presentation.

It expects the air passenger traffic to double again by 2039-40 to around 240 million passengers and continue to grow.

There are reasons to be bullish about the prospects for Indian carriers to expand and compete more aggressively on international routes, for example Air India privatisation, large fleet of long haul narrow-bodies, and possible revival of Jet.

But, supply will still remain short of demand, even based on conservative estimates, it added.

Given the positive and strengthening outlook for Indian carriers, “we believe that win-win co-existence is feasible and likely. But, Middle Eastern markets must recognise that they will have to clearly spell out and tangibly demonstrate the benefits that they can bring to India’s economy and tourism industry”, it stated.

In particular, as Air India’s financials deteriorated, the bilateral regime became more inward looking, CAPA said.

“Broader strategic cooperation will be the pivot around which a more liberal approach may be seen.

“We recommend that stakeholders, of the likes of AACO (Arab Air Carriers Organization), the regional association of Arab airlines, could take the lead in defining a new approach based on shared interests, focusing on complementarity rather than conflict,” it stated.

“We believe that the government is open and receptive if a win-win strategy is presented. Successful privatisation of Air India will lead to a market-based approach to India’s aero-political settings.

“In addition, the government is expected to address other policy, regulatory and fiscal distortions. Together, these would positively reset the competitiveness of Indian aviation,” said CAPA.

Indian carriers, however, will need to compete on the world stage in terms of network and product, it said adding that they have shown that they are able to, despite constraints.

It added that an enabling framework will assist significantly. In particular, a commercially-oriented, well-run Air India has the potential to be a genuine global network carrier.

CAPA recommended that aviation access can, and should be, included in the broader economic and strategic cooperation between India and the Middle East, and linked to investment flows, while balancing the needs of Indian carriers. “The traditional approach to bilateral negotiations may no longer be relevant.”

It said Middle Eastern carriers also need to realise that in the current regime, more tangible demonstration of the benefits that would accrue to India from increased market address is needed, together with clarity, commitment and transparency in approach.

According to CAPA, in contrast to India’s strengthening economic and strategic partnership with the Middle East across multiple areas of interest, the aviation relationship has been on pause. Most of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) markets exhausted their bilateral entitlements several years ago.

It stated that COVID-19 has temporarily relieved the need for additional seat entitlements.

“We believe this is the right time to prepare a long-term strategic framework for market access, that is aligned with India’s requirement for air connectivity to achieve its economic, trade and strategic objectives, while keeping in mind the aspirations of Indian carriers,” CAPA said.

PM Modi to inaugurate section of Dedicated Freight Corridor on Tuesday

Source: Livemint.com, Dec 27, 2020

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will virtually inaugurate a section of the Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) on 29 December.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal will also be present for the inauguration of the 351- km-long New Khurja-New Bhaupur section of the Eastern DFC.

An Operation Control Centre (OCC) will also be inaugurated at Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh. The OCC will act as the command centre for the entire Eastern (DFC).

The section is built at a cost of ₹5,750 crore and is funded by the World Bank. The new stations in the line are Bhaupur, Kanchausi, Achalda, Ekdil, Bhadan, Makhanpur, Tundla, Hathras, Daudkan and Khurja.

“In this stretch, 68 level crossings have been eliminated for augmenting speed and safety. The section has 19 major bridges, 414 minor bridges, seven rail flyovers. Tata – Aldesa JV was responsible for civil work and Alstom was responsible for the system (signalling and electrical),” according to the railway ministry.

Dedicated Freight Corridor Corp. of India was set up by the government to decongest railway network, ensure faster movement of goods, increase the national carrier’s freight capacity network and reduce overall logistics cost for companies.

“Decongestion of existing Kanpur-Delhi mainline, presently, the Kanpur (Bhaupur) Khurja section is among the most congested sections of Indian Railways and line capacity utilisation is more than 150 percent. With the release of freight trains to DFC route, Indian Railways section will be able to run faster and punctual trains and will get time to do routine maintenance which was earlier a daunting challenge,” the ministry said, adding that average speed of goods train will increase up to 60-70 kmph from 25-30 kmph now. In the first phase, Dedicated Freight Corridor Corp. of India is constructing the Western and Eastern DFC. The Eastern freight corridor will start from Sahnewal near Ludhiana, Punjab will pass through Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and terminate at Dankuni in West Bengal. The Western corridor will connect Dadri, Uttar Pradesh to Jawaharlal Nehru Port (JNPT), Mumbai and will traverse through UP, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra. Three more DFCs are also in pipeline.

India’s first private train on Indian Railways network to hit tracks by this year

Source: Business Standard, Jul 02, 2020

First private train to be out by April 2023! Today Railway Board Chairman Vinod Kumar Yadav announced that the first private train on Indian Railways network is expected to hit tracks for passengers sometime in the month of April 2023. Yesterday, Request for Qualifications (RFQ) has been invited by Piyush Goyal chaired Railway Ministry for the participation of private players for the operation of passenger train services over 109 Origin Destination pairs of railway routes through the introduction of as many as 151 modern trains. According to Railway Ministry, the 109 OD pairs have been formed into a total of twelve clusters across the country’s railway network. Each of these modern trains will have a minimum of 16 coaches.

According to the Railway Ministry, the project would entail investment from the private sector of around Rs 30,000 crore. Interestingly, this is the first such initiative of investment from the private sector for operating passenger train services over the Indian Railways network. The majority of these modern trains are likely to be manufactured under the Modi government’s Make in India initiative.

For financing, procuring, operation as well as for maintenance of the trains, the private entity will be responsible, the Railway Ministry has stated. The modern private trains will be designed for a maximum speed of 160 km per hour, therefore, there would be a drastic reduction in journey time, according to the ministry. According to the national transporter, the aim of this initiative is to introduce modern technology rolling stock with reduced transit time, reduced maintenance, provide enhanced safety to passengers, provide world-class travel experience, creation of jobs, as well as to minimize the demand-supply deficit in the sector of passenger transportation. For the project, the concession period will be 35 years. The private firm will have pay to the national transporter energy charges as per actual consumption, fixed haulage charges as well as a share in Gross Revenue, which will be determined through a transparent process of bidding.

Piyush Goyal wants to put Indian Railways on fast track with private sector help

Source:  Livemint.com, Jan 12, 2020

INDORE : Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on Sunday referred to the famous ‘railgaadi’ song of actor Ashok Kumar while stressing the need for support of the private sector to accelerate development of the railways.

Piyush Goyal also announced that a special train will soon operate from Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh to Uttar Pradesh's Varanasi. (PTI)

He dismissed speculations of privatisation of the railway network, but highlighted the need for a public-private partnership funding model for the sector.

“Some trains are still chugging (moving slowly) like actor Ashok Kumar’s ‘railgaadi’ song (due to lack of infrastructure),” Goyal told reporters here, referring to the song from Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s 1968 film “Aashirwad”.

The film is remembered for the rap-like “railgaadi’ song performed by legendary actor late Ashok Kumar.

“We want to end the era of slow moving trains by making way for the fast speed-driven MEMU and electric trains, like the trains being run in suburban Mumbai (with the help of private sector),” he said while advocating for reforms in the railways.

Asked about the opposition to private investments, Goyal said, “The common public is not opposing it. You might be noticing the noise elsewhere. In fact, people are welcoming that the railway is entering a new era.”

He said the railways wants to attract an investment of ₹50 lakh crore in next 12 years to expand the facilities in passenger and goods trains through modernisation.

“This big investment is impossible through the railway and government budgets. So, the way out is to work on a public-private partnership (PPP) model,” he said.

Due to inadequate investments in railways in the past, the government machinery faced the burden, he said, adding that the demand of ticket-seekers in some trains was more than 150 per cent.

Allaying fears of privatisation of the railway network, Goyal said, “The Indian Railways is a treasure of the country and its people. This will continue and reins of the railways will remain with the government.”

Goyal also announced that a special train will soon operate from Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh to Uttar Pradesh’s Varanasi, which is famous for the Kashi Vishwanath temple.

The train will be run by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation, the minister said.

Before talking to reporters here, the minister offered prayers at the Mahakaleshwar Temple in neighbouring Ujjain.

A huge number of devotees from the country and abroad come tothe temple, which is dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Goyal said tenders have been issued recently for the infrastructure development and revival of facilities at five railway stations in the country under the PPP model. He also said that tenders may be issued in the coming days to develop Indore and other railway stations in the country under this model.

Europe’s largest intercity bus network plans to enter Indian market

Source: Business Standard, Dec 17, 2019

Kolkata: FlixBus, largest intercity bus network in Europe, and backed by investors General Atlantic and Silver Lake, is planning to venture into India.

The company operates on the same model as cab service aggregators such as Uber or Ola.

It does not own any bus or hire drivers but facilitates operational support, like scheduling, and ticketing, among other things. The company partners regional bus operators, and offers rides across Europe and in the US. It works on the principle of dynamic pricing, through an online platform and a FlixBus app.

“We recently started our recruitment for the Indian market and the project is still in an early business development stage,” said a spokesperson of FlixBus Global over e-mail.

One of the most successful German start-ups, it was launched by Daniel Krauss, André Schwämmlein and Jochen Engert in 2013, after deregulation of the bus market in that country. FlixBus is a subsidiary of FlixMobility, which has also launched train services. The firm works with around 300 independent bus and train entities.

In 2015, FlixBus began expanding internationally, with long-distance networks in France, Italy, Denmark, Netherlands and Croatia, as well as cross-border services to Norway, Spain and Britain. It connects a little more than 2,000 destinations in 30 countries, says the company.

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India’s first inland waterways shipment to start with PepsiCo

Source: Business Standard, Oct 28, 2018

Kolkata: The country’s first container movement on inland waterways vessel post-independence scheduled on Tuesday, 30th October, from Kolkata would start with a consignment of the PepsiCo.

Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) officials said the food and Beverage giant would move 16 containers from Kolkata to Varanasi on NW-1.

PepsiCo (India) will move 16 containers equivalent to 16 truckloads – filled with food and snacks in the vessel MV RN Tagore which will reach Varanasi in 9-10 days, the officials said. Read the rest of this entry »