The suburban train which allows Bengalureans to travel from the city to the Kempegwoda International Airport was launched amid fanfare and social media buzz on January 4, but two weeks on, railway officials are at a loss to explain the abysmally low ridership on the trains. Even though the ticket is priced at just Rs 10, figures provided by South Western Railways state that, up to January 21, the train to and from the airport ran empty on more than 10 rides since the service started.
Each train can accommodate 610 passengers, after taking distancing rules into account, but there does not seem to be takers for the trains to the airport. The ridership of the train was in single digits on more than 20 occasions in the last two weeks. "We are unable to explain it but the figures are low. There haven't been major delays reported except for January 20, when there was a weld failure," a railways official told TNM.
The official noted that the ridership on most trains is lesser than it used to be due to the pandemic, but the trains to the airport were expected to attract more passengers than it has so far. SWR will now discuss the timings of the train with Bengaluru International Airport Limited (BIAL), which manages the airport. The trains were not only expected to benefit the public, but also help over 20,000 staff members working at the airport.
Five pairs of trains connecting Bengaluru city to the Kempegowda International Airport 35 km away, were launched on January 4. The service was hailed as a game changer for the city as it offered a cheaper way to reach the airport. The tickets for the trains were priced at Rs 10, which costs much less than taking cabs or buses to the airport.
Two trains start from the KSR Railway Station at 4:45 am and 9 pm, and three other trains operate from Yelahanka (7 am), Yeshwantpur (8:30 am) and Cantonment (5:55 pm) stations. Five trains operate in the other direction from the airport to the city, with the earliest train at 6:23 am and the last train at 10:38 pm.
The train journey takes less than an hour and a free shuttle bus service takes commuters from the halt station to the airport. â€œIn the long run, the trains will help Bengaluru by providing a practical option for commuting to and from Airport. But, for this to happen, everyone has to do their bit to promote, popularise and patronise these trains, so that they become more and more useful," activist Rajkumar Dugar said. He has prepared a user-friendly timetable of the trains to the airport from Bengaluru.