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    Dec 2009

    Default Tunnel from PM's house to airport

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    NEW DELHI: To prevent traffic snarls caused by VIP movement, the government is planning to build an underground tunnel from the prime minister's residence at 7, Race Course Road to the nearby Safdarjung airport, it is reliably learnt.

    The PM often takes a helicopter from this airport to reach places in and around Delhi as well as to go to the IGI airport to catch a flight. His short movement -- via Kemal Ataturk Road, Safdarjung Road and Aurobindo Marg-- causes traffic to be held up.

    The tunnel, said sources, is meant for use as an emergency exit, but may also be used for the PM to reach Safdarjung and minimise inconvenience caused to motorists. The entire plan is being conceived and implemented by the PM's security wing.

    While PM's residence -- a complex of three bungalows, collectively known as 7, RCR -- and Safdarjung airport are about 3km apart, the PM has sought to minimise traffic snarls by using choppers within the city.
    A tunnel link, while enhancing his security, would cut back on traffic restrictions.

    The proposed new link may even be partially underground -- from PM house to beyond Kemal Ataturk Marg -- and then an overground drive to the chopper hangar behind Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan.

    In India, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation is the biggest tunneling expert, and being a government agency, may be asked to implement the project. DMRC was also requested to lay the six-lane tunnel road below IGI airport's main runway.

    Meanwhile, the government is also looking at the trouble caused to airlines and air travellers each time a VIP like the president or the PM flies in and out of any airport. The security restrictions imposed before their departure has, off late, been causing huge delays and even diversions.

    The cabinet secretariat on Monday held a meeting with aviation authorities to review the current restrictions. Expressing concern at the delays, cabinet secretary K M Chandrasekhar is learnt to have asked authorities to finetune the system in a way that minimises problems to flyers without compromising security. The DGCA, Airports Authority of India and Special Protection Group will be holding meetings shortly to see where the VIP drill is being 'overdone'.

    Aspects of the current airport drill like runway inspections and chopper recce of the immediate departure flight path are known to add to delays caused by the otherwise innocuous three-minute ban on aircraft movement before any VIP departure.
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