IAF jets land on Agra-Lucknow Expressway

Unnao (Uttar Pradesh), Nov 21 (IANS) IAF fighter jets on Monday touched down on the Agra-Lucknow Expressway as part of a formal opening of India’s longest expressway and also check its feasibility as an alternate landing site in emergencies.

The six-lane, 302-km-long expressway, connecting the city of Taj Mahal with the state capital Lucknow, was inaugurated by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and his father and Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Three Mirage-2000s and three SU-30s of the Indian Air Force performed simulated landings on the Expressway at Unnao, around 50 km from Lucknow, as a host of IAF officers, politicians and commoners watched in awe.

The portion of the Expressway at Ganj Moradabad, intended to be used for emergency jet landings, has a reinforced cement concrete construction and appropriately marked to facilitate aircraft landings.

The entire operation began with the first three Mirages coming overhead at around 1 p.m. and culminated with a touch and go by the SU-30 fighter jets at 1.30 p.m.

The aim of the exercise was to check feasibility of the expressway being used as alternate airstrips in case of dire emergencies or non-availability of runways for any reason, said the IAF.

In May last year, a Mirage-2000 had landed and taken off from the Yamuna Expressway in Mathura.

The Central Air Command chief, Air Marshal S.B.P. Sinha, was among those present at the venue to oversee the operations.

A pet project of the Chief Minister, the Expressway has been constructed by the Uttar Pradesh Expressways Industrial Development Authority (UPEIDA).

Speaking on the occasion, Akhilesh Yadav thanked the IAF for the grand show and said the expressway would be opened for public soon.

According to the Uttar Pradesh government, the expressway will halve the travel time between Agra and Lucknow to just 3.5 hours from the current seven hours.

The expressway, which joins the Yamuna Expressway in Agra, is also expected to reduce the travel time between Delhi and Lucknow to between five and six hours.

An official connected with the project said the expressway was fully equipped with advanced traffic management systems that would work during foggy conditions too.

The state government claimed that laying a 302-km greenfield expressway in barely 23 months was a national record. The six- lane expressway can be later expanded to eight lanes.

Eight bridges on the Ganges and Yamuna, four railway overbridges and provision of 3.3 km runway for landing of IAF fighter planes are among the unique features of the project.

Agra citizens rejoiced on the opening of the six-lane Expressway, which the government has said would bring Taj Ganj in Agra closer to Hazrat Ganj, the premier market in Lucknow.

A few stretches of the mega project are still to be completed but Akhilesh Yadav was keen to present a birthday gift to his father, Mulayam Singh, whose birthday is on Monday.

The formal opening ceremony was held at Khamboli, near RS Chauraha Bangarmau in Unnao district, adjacent to Lucknow.

A few days ago, the CEO of the project, Navneet Sehgal, was seriously injured alongwith an IANS journalist and some staffers when he visited the site. Sehgal is in Medanta Hospital presently.

The new expressway did not face many legal hassles like the Mayawati project, Yamuna Expressway, as land was purchased from 30,000 farmers after concluding amicable agreements under market terms, an official said.