With the Centre dragging its feet over setting up a suburban rail authority line in Bengaluru, rail activists are running a campaign to urge the Members of Parliament to build halt stations using its Local Area Development (LAD) funds. A halt station refers to a railway station with minimal facilities, where only a few trains stop.
Incidentally, the Hoodi Railway Station in Whitefield, which was inaugurated in February this year, was built with the MPLAD funds of Bengaluru Central MP PC Mohan. Located between KR Puram and Whitefield Railway station in the Cantonment-Whitefield line in the eastern fringe of the city, the Hoodi station is near many major IT (information technology) and BT (biotechnology) offices on the outer ring road (ORR). The new station has proved to be a boon for many workers and has resulted in the reduction of the traffic gridlock witnessed in the neighbouring areas.
Now activists want six new such stations to be built, among which two are in the Bengaluru Rural limits, while two are in Bengaluru North limits. The other two stations are in Chikkaballapur and Bengaluru Central limits.
These stations will benefit many travelling to the city from these peripheral areas for work and, in the process, reduce the traffic congestion in the city.
According to Sanjeev Dyamannavar, a long-time suburban rail crusader, basic amenities of a halt station can be set up within Rs 2-3 crore. These include setting up ticket counters, foot over bridge, platforms and access roads, among others.
“All new trains added in the suburban rail circuit have been getting huge patronage. The usage will further increase as people are also adapting and readjusting their travel to new train services,” he says.
The activists, under the aegis of Bengaluru Suburban Rail Users, are planning to take up the issue with the respective MPs in the coming days.
Work on building a halt station for the Bengaluru Airport has already begun near Devanahalli, which is being funded by the airport authority. The work is set to be completed by February 2020.
Rajkumar Dugar, Convenor of the NGO Citizens 4 Citizens, another suburban rail activist said, “There are already half a dozen trains running through the under-construction airport halt station. So we need trains from different directions around the city to the airport. The number of flyers near the airport is increasing at a high pace as the second terminal is also going to be ready. So it would be good if at least 20-25% of the airport-bound traffic is off the roads.”
He also suggested some alternative train routes to the airport: Ramanagara-Bengaluru (Majestic)-Yelahanka-Airport, Hosur-Heelalige-Carmelaram-Byappanahalli-Yelahanka-Airport, Bangarpet-Baiyappanahalli-Airport and from Tumakuru to the Airport.
“There is no need to lay new tracks as they already exist in these routes. With this, much of the traffic problem in Bengaluru can be neutralised,” said Rajkumar.
In addition to this, the activists are going to run a Twitter campaign to urge Prime Minister Narendra Modi to approve the special purpose vehicle (SPV), which has already been sanctioned by the Extended Railway Board of the Indian Railways on November 4. SPV, like the BMRCL for the city’s metro, is required for swift allocation and utilisation of funds for numerous projects for the suburban rail network. The campaign will begin when the Prime Minister is set to visit the state in the first week of 2020.