Metro line to connect parts of B’luru to Kempegowda Airport only by 2023

Meanwhile, the Nagawara-Gottigere line may be completed only by 2024 due to complexities surrounding the underground construction.
Metro line to connect parts of B’luru to Kempegowda Airport only by 2023
Metro line to connect parts of B’luru to Kempegowda Airport only by 2023

Bengalureans can travel by metro to the Kempegowda International Airport by 2023, with the extension from the Outer Ring Road Line between Silk Board and KR Puram via Hebbal. Meanwhile, the construction of the Gottigere-Nagawara metro route, which was the first extension planned to connect the airport to the city, will be delayed.

Speaking to TNM, Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited MD Ajay Seth, IAS, said, “The approved elevated ORR (Outer Ring Road) line, from Silk Board going up to the Airport via KR Puram and Hebbal, can be expected to be commissioned by 2023.”

This comes just days after the Karnataka government approved a change in the alignment of the originally proposed metro line to the Kempegowda Airport from Nagawara. The new alignment, approved by the state Cabinet on January 10, connects Nagawara and the airport through Hebbal and Jakkur. The length of the stretch will be 9 km longer in length, which will take the total distance of the route to 38 km.

However, according to the topmost officer of the metro, the Gottigere-Nagawara line will take longer to be completed due to practical difficulties on the ground, including that of underground construction. The line will be completed earliest by 2024.

“We have not awarded tender for Gottigere-Nagawara line and it is likely that for two packages the tender will be issued in another two months and for another two packets, the tender can be only issued in August and September, This is why we are unable to put a firm timeline before another two months from now,” Ajay Seth told TNM.  

This deviation from the originally proposed RK Hegde Nagar route (via Thanisandra Main Road) will also cost an additional Rs 5,000 crore. The original alignment had to be changed as the RK Hegde Nagar route had high-pressure gas lines of the Gas Authority of India Limited and other utility setups.

“The detailed project report is ready and we hope to send it in another 10 days time (to the government of India). The state government has given permissions for the land acquisition and other design activities, shifting of utilities and the arrangement of funds in the current calendar year itself. This means, we will be floating the tender in the later part of 2019 and in the meantime, we expect to get the approval from Government of India so that work can start in the early part of 2020. Instead of getting approvals and then starting the work, the government has allowed the BMRCL to take up all pre-project activities right away,” Seth added.

Despite the statements from the BMRCL MD, urban mobility experts are skeptical about the 2023 deadline, given the repeated instances of deadlines being extended in Bengaluru.

Sanjeev Dhyamnavar, an expert of urban mobility at Praja RAAG, said, “This dilly-dallying by successive governments on alignments and lack of seriousness to provide mass transport systems will prove disastrous for commuters. By now, we should have had a metro to the airport when all the other major metro cities have it or work is underway in full pace. Only Bengaluru is deciding on which direction is more feasible and which route is better.”

“This new alignment means fresh planning. The airport itself is expecting 50-60 million passengers annually in the next five years. So there is a need for multi-modal transport to the airport. It can be via road, suburban rail and the metro. But the government is not serious in making sure any of these works. We can only now ask for the project to be started at the earliest and finished according to the deadline,” he added.  

Activists closely following the development point out that there are issues of cost sharing which might further hamper the progress of the project. While the government has received assurance from the European Investment Bank for a loan of Rs 3,800 crore, the state government is insisting that the metro corporation bear the cost of rail infrastructure for the portion within the airport premises.

The airport operator, Bangalore International Airport Limited, has already committed Rs 1,000 crore for two stations inside the airport premises. But the issue of funding the other rail infrastructure within the airport premises is unclear.

Recently speaking on the expansion of the first phase of the second terminal of the airport, BIAL CEO Hari Marar had said that while it is not opposed to funding the rail infrastructure in principle, approval from the Airport Economic Regulatory Authority of India is still pending.

Not the first delay

The Phase-1 of the 42 km-long project took a total of 11 years to be completed and only became a reality in June 2017 when the original deadline was 2011.

For Phase-II of the metro which covers 72.1 km, the BMRCL is so far hopeful of finishing only three of the total six stretches by the 2020 deadline. While the  Byappanahalli-Whitefield and RV Road-Bommasandra route will be completed in 2021, the Yellachenahalli-Anjanapura line will be complete in 2019. The Mysore Road-Kengeri and Nagasandra-BIEC lines are expected to be finished by 2020.

These delays are taking place even when the approval from the Government of India came in February 2014.

The delays have cost the exchequer an average of 5% increase in costs for the total project. While initially, the project was pegged at Rs 26,000 crore, the current estimated cost now stands at Rs 32,000 crore.

The KR Puram-Silk Board line comes under Metro Phase-2A and is expected to finish by 2022 as opposed to 2021 due to the delay in awarding tenders in the light of IL&FS crisis.

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