The delays in metro construction, a regular feature in pre-COVID-19 times too, means waste of public money, traffic snarls and pollution from construction dust.

Bengaluru metro construction workPTI
news Coronavirus Tuesday, August 04, 2020 - 19:17

While delays are not new to the Bengaluru metro rail construction, with the full-fledged start of Phase 1 operations deferred multiple times, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant further delays to ongoing projects. The delays in construction, a regular feature in the pre-COVID-19 times too, means waste of public money, traffic snarls and extended exposure to pollution from construction dust.

Phase 1 of the metro in its entirety of the existing 42.3 kilometre-stretch was opened for commercial operations in June 2017, after a delay of four years. This is accounting for the delayed start (three years) of work in 2011 from the initially proposed starting date in 2008. These lengthy delays have meant the cost had more than doubled from the initial sanctioned amount of Rs 6,395 crore to Rs 14,500 crore. 

Here is a lowdown of the change in deadlines of the ongoing projects compared to those right before the onset of the pandemic:

  1. Mysore Road-Kengeri (Purple Line) 

Initial deadline: September 2017

Pre-COVID-19 deadline: November 2020

Present deadline:February 2021

Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa in his budget speech in February had said that this line will be completed by 2020, along with the Anjanapura extension in the Green Line. Metro officials had earlier said the project will be functional by the end of October and they were planning to open for the public by Rajyotsava Day (November 1). 

The primary reason for the delay attributed to this project before the COVID-19 outbreak was the financial collapse of the contractor, Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services (IL&FS) Limited. Officials said 95% of the construction work is completed and the laying of tracks and other system works will soon begin. 

The corridor will have five stations, namely: Nayandahalli, Rajarajeshwari Nagar, Bangalore University Cross, RV College of Engineering and Kengeri. 

  1. Yelachenahalli – Anjanapura (Green Line)  

Initial deadline proposed:  2018-end

Pre-COVID-19 deadline: August 2020

Present deadline: November 2020 

According to BMRCL officials, the pre-COVID-19 deadline for the project — August 2020 — was realistic; they are now looking for inauguration on Independence Day. About 87% of the civic works on this line have been done. Here, the delay was primarily due to the initial plan of using part of forest land to set up a depot, which was resisted by environmentalists. Later the issue was resolved by BMRCL after it acquired private land.

There are five stations: Anjanapura Road Cross, Krishnaleela Park (ISKON), Vajarahalli, Talaghattapura and Anjanapura Township

  1. Baiyyappanahalli – Whitefield (Purple Line) 

Initial deadline: 2020

Pre-COVID-19 deadline: 2021-end 

Present deadline: June 2022

The work on this highly congested corridor had been going on since February 2016 and was likely to finish by 2021. But officials said that in actuality, only around 65% of the civic work was over at the end of January. Underground and above-ground utility lines — electric lines, water, sewage and coordination with agencies were the major hiccups in the construction process. Here too the contractor’s financial troubles contributed to the delay.

  1. Nagasandra-Bangalore International Exhibition Centre (Green Line)  

Initial deadline: June 2019

Pre-COVID-19 deadline: 2021-end

Present deadline: January 2022

Work on this line had begun in March 2017 but this short 3.3 kilometre line will only see the completion of works by January 2022 at the earliest. The reason for the delay in this line has been blamed for the difficulty in acquiring land. As of now, only 55% of civic works have been completed. Incidentally, the NICE Road land was entrenched in a legal dispute at the Karnataka High Court. 

There are three stations planned: Manjunathanagar, Jindal and BIEC (Bangalore International Exhibition Centre) Terminal. Work is also disrupted by residents who want a fourth station between Jindal and BIEC. 

  1. Bommasandra— RV Road (Yellow Line) 

Initial deadline: Mid-2020

Pre-COVID-19 deadline:2021-end

Present deadline: March 2022

The 21 kilometre stretch was undergoing construction at a very slow place with only about 60% of the work done. The line also features the double-decker flyover in the city near the busy Silk Board junction. The RV Road station is already part of the Green Line. Sixteen stations are planned in the Yellow Line, namely: RV Road, Ragigudda temple, Jayadeva Hospital (interchange station of Gottigere – IIBM Nagawara line), BTM Layout, Silk Board, HSR Layout, Oxford College, Muneshwara Nagar, Chikkabegur, Basapura Road, Hosa Road, Electronic City–I, Electronic City, Husker Road, Hebbagodi and Bommasandra. 

The line has been divided into three parcels by the BMRCL in three phases:

Phase 1: Bommasandra to Hosa Road
Phase 2: Hosa Road-Bommanahalli
Phase 3: Bommanahalli to RV Road. 

Among these, Phase 2 is in the most advanced stage with 73% civil works done and Phase 1 and 3 having finished 69% and 39% works as of now, respectively.

  1. Gottigere - Nagawara (Pink Line, initially named Red) 

Initial deadline: 2020

Pre-COVID-19 deadline: 2023 end

Present deadline: June 2024 

This is the most challenging line according to the metro officials as it involves the longest underground work in the city and boring work had begun after much delay. The underground work starts from Dairy Circle to the end of the stretch and is almost 14 kilometres-long. According to BMRCL, only 23% of the civic works are over. 

Initially, there were hiccups in the tendering process for the underground works and work has started with three to four tunnel boring machines having been deployed

The stations in this line are Gottigere, Hulimavu, IIM-Bangalore, JP Nagar 4th Phase, Jayadeva Hospital, Swagath Road Cross, Dairy Circle, Lakkasandra (ersthile Mico Industries), Langford Town, Rashtriya Military School, Vellara Road), MG Road, Shivaji Nagar, Cantonment, Pottery Town, Tannery Road, Venkateshpura, Kadugundanahalli and Nagawara.

Reasons for delay

Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited Chief Public Relations Officer Yashwanth Chavan said the reasons for current delays are multifold even though work had completely stopped between March 22 to mid-April 27.

“While work had begun soon after the first phase of the lockdown, we have to enforce COVID-19 related safety protocols like physical distancing so we can’t expect work to happen at the same pace as before. There is an issue with the workforce as many people have returned to their hometowns and not everybody has returned. So we have to engage new workers (25%), so there is time required for training them. Also, there have been issues with some construction sites facing an outbreak of cases where work had to be shut down temporarily,” Chavan reasoned for framing the new deadlines.

New phase, old mistakes

While coronavirus-induced delays are unavoidable, city-based activists blamed the pre-existing delays on the BMRCL management for not learning from their mistakes in the previous phase of the construction.

One of the common concerns echoed by activists was, like the Delhi metro, for every extension of the existing line, the BMRCL could have gone for staggered opening of every next station as and when construction work is over. Other points raised by activists are that instead of starting work in multiple directions, the BMRCL could have engaged all its resources in one to two lines at a single time and finished projects quickly, which would have ensured lesser financial costs and traffic snarls.

Sanjeev Dhyamanavar, a transport policy analyst and activist, said, “BMRCL could have planned and easily opened stations in the Mysore Road and Green Line extensions from time to time, as and when they finish completing building stations and necessary system works.”

Often, work had also stopped midway due to problems related to land acquisition, they pointed out. The BMRCL will sanction construction work even before the land is acquired and it incurs cost on man and machinery for the wait time, activists said.

Similarly, Rajkumar Dugar, Convenor of Citizens 4 Citizens (a non-profit), said, “Instead of digging the city in all four directions, they could have concentrated on finishing the small extensions first and then carrying on with long-term works. This would have helped BMRCL to shore up some growth in revenue.” 

“For example, at the Kadugodi depot, they should have got clearance from the Forest Department first before confirming the alignment and beginning work. This, as a result, increases the cost astronomically. For example, tunnel boring machines, which cost crores, have been moved in and due to the land issue with the All Saints Church. The contractor can’t work, but is forced to await possession of the land. So BMRCL will be charged the same for this period,” Sanjeev argued.

Incidentally, the much-talked about Metro line connecting the city to the airport till date is yet to get central government approval.

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