After spearheading a massive campaign against the construction of the steel flyover in Bengaluru, the citizensâ€™ coalition, Citizens for Bengaluru, is spearheading another campaign for fixing some of the worst traffic problems in the city.
The coalition has launched a campaign called #ChukuBukuBeku, demanding suburban trains instead of the proposed steel flyover to ease traffic woes in the city. Although the setting up of a suburban rail network has been a long-standing demand of residentsâ€™ welfare associations in the city, successive governments have thus far failed to take any concrete steps taken to achieve it.
The lack of political will, many say, is what has stalled the project for so many years.
According to Sanjeev Dyamannavar, a member of the CfB and the advocacy group, Praja, Bengaluru's suburban rail network includes about 40 railway stations in and around the city. Nearly 2 lakh commuters use the 20 trains that complete 30 shuttles a day.
Strengthening the local train network, says Sanjeev, would require adding around 30-40 railway stations on existing railway lines. The cost of building the additional railway stations, along with facilities for signalling and railway crossings, Sanjeev points out will cost nearly half than the estimated cost of constructing the steel flyover.
In a â€śCall our MLA/MPâ€ť campaign organised on Wednesday, volunteers of CfB reached out to legislators to convey people's demands for strengthening the suburban train network.
â€śWhen we came out heavily against the steel flyover, everybody asked us what alternative we had to offer. Hereâ€™s our answer. The way to improve public transport is not by spending crores of rupees and building a flyover, but by improving the suburban trains in the city. That will itself take off a large portion of the vehicles off the road. The local trains project has been pending for over 30 years,â€ť Srinivas Alavilli, another member of CfB said.
The members of the coalition believe that a full-fledged local train service will benefit over 25 lakh people and not only ease the traffic congestion, but also improve the air quality in the city, something that has been a growing concern in the last few years.
Srinivas points out that the lack of awareness among the public about the existing infrastructure and the possibilities of expanding them, is one of the reason for "politicians getting away without implementing policies."
Both Srinivas and Sanjeev quote the example of the Hoodi railway station, opened in September this year. For the last seven years, Hoodi (falling between KR Puram and Whitefield), had been an unofficial stop. It was only in September that Hoodi was finally officially opened, with 12 scheduled stops there.
The fact that there has been little development in the railway sector outside of the addition of a few trains on occasion, observes Sanjeev, shows a lack of leadership on the part of the state government.
"The kind of urgency the government is showing in the case of contructing the steel flyover, should instead by shown in improving the suburban rail network," he adds.
Architect and CfB member, Naresh Narasimhan, says that the government should formulate policies that focus on â€śtransporting people and not transporting vehicles.â€ť
â€śProjects such as the steel flyover only encourage people to buy more vehicles. The basis of policy formulation is itself wrong. The government somehow feels that it is not doing anything if not for gigantic multi-crore projects. We are asking why they cannot implement simpler things to solve issues,â€ť Naresh says.