The South Western Railways (SWR) revised its schedule for the newly launched suburban train from Bengaluru to the Kempegowda International Airport after reports of delays in the train service on the first day on Monday. The revision was necessitated after it emerged there were two trains clashing in a single line section between Yelahanka and Devanahalli around 6.30 pm.
This reporter travelled in the train to the airport at 5.55 pm on Monday and it reached the airport at 7.12 pm, 22 minutes later than the scheduled arrival time of 6.50 pm. The train from the airport halt station to the city at 6.43 pm was more than an hour late.
TNM had earlier reported that a 24-km stretch of rail line between Yehalanka and Devanahalli is a single track. This means that trains can only go once every 30 minutes in either direction and the airport halt station lies in this stretch.
The revised schedule however, did not solve the issue completely. One of the trains from the airport to the city now takes 2 hours and 20 minutes, more than an hour longer than the normal time taken for this distance.
Revised schedule of airport link train #06280
The airport link train service, with tickets priced at Rs 10, was launched amid fanfare on Monday. Five trains are now plying between the city and the airport offering residents in Bengaluru an option to reach the airport paying nominal prices. A free shuttle bus service takes travellers to and from the airport to the airport halt railway station located near the boundary of the airport. The Bengaluru International Airport is around 35 km from the city centre
In addition to the scheduling issue, a signal error compounded problems with the service on Monday. Responding to queries about the delays, South Western Railways (SWR) public relations officer E Vijaya told TNM that there was a signal failure at the Byappanahalli Route Relay Interlocking (RRI), which led to a few trains getting delayed.
"There was a signalling failure in the evening at the Baiyappanahalli RRI around 5.40 pm which is the evening peak time. Trains which were crossing were delayed," Vijaya told TNM.
Schedule of trains to airport compiled by Rajkumar Dugar
She added that on Tuesday, only one of the airport trains was delayed by 11 minutes. "We are working to get the delays down to the single digit. Unless there is an unexpected failure, the delays will be minimal going forward and we aim to maintain punctuality on the airport train," Vijaya said.
The Railways is looking at ways to improve the time taken to reach the airport from the city. "We are looking to reduce it by a further 20 minutes by looking into the number of stops there are along the way. We encourage Bengaluru citizens to try this cheaper, safer and eco-friendly transport," Vijaya said.
Activists have suggested that the Railways take up doubling work or build a crossing station at Doddajala at the cost of Rs 10 crore. "We are also planning to do electrification of the line and for doubling work to be taken up. This will take time," Vijaya added.
According to officials at the Bengaluru International Airport, the daily traffic at the airport is currently around 30,000. The five trains plying to and from the airport can transport around 3500 commuters everyday and activists said that the railways should aim to increase this number.