The Railway Board had approved the project on condition that the airport link be ready in three years in October 2020.

A Suburban train in Bengaluru Representational image
news Transport Tuesday, January 12, 2021 - 15:40

Rail activists in Bengaluru are disappointed that K-RIDE (Karnataka Rail Infrastructure Development Company), which is building the suburban rail project has prioritised work on the other lines over the airport line. Though K-RIDE- – which is a joint venture between the state government and the Union government – has also named the airport line as ‘corridor 1’ on its website, the two other corridors are seemingly given higher priority. Activists say that while building the network of four corridors is important to solve the traffic problem plaguing Bengaluru city holistically, work on the airport corridor should have been prioritised for several reasons.

It may be recalled that the Union Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs had approved four corridors of the much-delayed suburban rail project in October 2020. At that time, even the Railway Board (Ministry of Railways) had asked K-RIDE to finish work on the airport line in three years, and rest of the work in six years.  The three other approved corridors are: Byappanahalli-Yeshwantpur-Chikkabanavara; Kengeri-Cantonment-Whitefield; and Heelalige-Byappanahalli-Rajanukunte.Rajkumar Dugar, convenor of Citizens 4 Citizens, said, “The peak hour traffic demand for the airport corridor is 30-50% higher than the other three corridors. Hence, this must be taken up first. This corridor also has existing metro stations nearby at two places along its route – KSR (City) and Yeshwantpur. These metro stations can effectively extend its reach to the entire functional metro network.”

He added that the traffic issues in the city will also be countered most by this line as this will not only be used by flyers alone. “This corridor is not meant only for the airport commute. It will also cater to local en route commuters just like the other corridors. In the past few years, Bengaluru has seen growth in its northern part, and this corridor will help speed up economic activity where Bengaluru is expanding. Plenty of new major projects are being planned in the northern part of Bengaluru and these will get a boost.”

Further, with only minimal land acquisition requirements, K-RIDE could have ensured that the train chugs to the airport terminal within the stipulated time of three years, activists say.

The airport like to be built by K-RIDE will have trains going directly to the airport terminal as opposed to the SWR link. The airport line services are set to be be faster and regular during all times of the day. According to the airport, more than 1.5 lakh footfall per day is expected by the end of 2021, which the SWR link is insufficient to handle.

Is the state govt pushing for a metro?

Krishna Prasad of the Karnataka Railway Vedike, another activist, said, “This is concerning as all us activists were happy to know that the airport line will be made first. What we hear now is that the Heelalige line is being worked upon. So, we will organise and meet railway officials and elected representatives on this issue. We feel the state government wants to push for metro rail even though the Union government is yet to approve the alignment.”

It may be recalled that currently the only non-road way to reach the airport is using the South Western Railway-run rail link which runs only five trains per day. From the station, commuters have to board a bus run by the airport to reach the terminal. 

Prasad added, “The airport desperately needs an alternative to the road connection. From the South Western Railway service to the airport, one has to take the shuttle bus to the airport from the halt station. This existing train line will not be feasible for senior citizens or people with heavy luggage.”

Alignment for the proposed metro line to the airport is yet to be finalised and has been pending with the Union government that is questioning feasibility for the project. Then, even in the best-case scenario, even if work begins now, the airport metro line will take at least six years to be ready. Already six corridors of metro lines (including extensions) are marred by huge delays.

What K-RIDE has to say

According to sources, K-RIDE is now set to begin work on the Byappanahalli-Yeshwantpur- Chikkabanavara and Heelalige-Byappanahalli- Rajanukunte lines. K-RIDE Managing Director Amit Garg confirmed the development.

A K-RIDE official on condition of anonymity claimed, “We have begun work on these two lines as directed by the state government. This does not mean that we are dropping the airport line. We will take up work on that line soon. For us, all the four corridors are equally important. It is not that it is less important as we will work on that after other corridors.’

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