To the satisfaction of those who have been advocating for sustainable transport in Bengaluru, the union government has asked for the dedicated suburban rail connection between the city to the airport to be completed ready within three years. The Railway Board and Ministry of Railways has issued a sanction letter to the K-RIDE (Karnataka Rail Infrastructure Development Company, implementing rail department) and state Chief Secretary to this effect earlier this month.
This means that if all goes according to plan, as per the original timeline of the project, one can hop on a train from the city to the airport by end of October 2023, Amit Garg, Managing Director of K-RIDE, confirmed to TNM. Notably, the Bengaluru City (Majestic/KSR)-Devanahalli (Airport) line is connected with the metro at Yeshwantpur and Majestic.
Sources said that the work would not be delayed much given there is very less land to be acquired for the project.
Currently the airport can be reached only through the existing road networks and BMTC (Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation) being the only mode of public transport for people, other than taxis.
Once this suburban rail corridor is ready, it will be the cheapest and the fastest mode of transport to the airport, especially during peak traffic hours. This corridor is also touted to free up Bengaluruâ€™s escalating vehicular traffic.
The three year deadline is significant as many activists were fearing that vested interests would want to delay work on this corridor.
Rajkumar Dugar, convenor of Citizens for Citizens (C4C), explained, â€śOut of all the four corridors, the one from City to Devanahalli (including Airport) must be taken up on a war-footing because it is the most-needed corridor and will have a significant impact on Bengaluru's traffic congestion. This corridor has the least private land acquisition, which obviously means it can be completed faster.â€ť
He added, â€śThe peak hour demand on this corridor will be the highest of the four corridors, mainly because footfalls at airport are set to double in a year when Terminal 2 becomes functional.â€ť
He argued that even if metro to Airport work starts now, it will take at least six years to complete the 60 km from Silk Board Junction to K R Puram to Hebbal to Airport Terminal. â€śBengaluru cannot afford to wait so long,â€ť he said.
The rest of the three corridors of the dedicated suburban rail project namely a) Byappanahalli-Yeshwantpur- Chikkabanavara b)Kengeri-Cantonment-
It may be recalled that the union government earlier in October did not officially announce the approval of the much delayed suburban rail project, due to the model code of conduct put in place due to the November 4 byepolls.
A rail connection using the existing rail infrastructure of South Western Railway has been recently made ready as a stop-gap measure by the Kempegowda International Airport authorities by setting up a halt station. The station which is 5 km away from the airport terminal will be serviced by shuttle buses. This rail connection will primarily benefit the hundreds of staff working in the airport round the clock. While the station is ready, train operations from the city to the airport halt station did not start operating awaiting a nod from the Railway Board.