Amid a celebratory display and scramble for credit, south India's first metro rail service was flagged off by Union Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath on Line 1 of Namma Metro between Mahatma Gandhi Road and Byappanahalli here on Thursday.

The 6.7-km stretch, which has six stations, is part of Namma Metro Phase 1 with a route network of 42.3 km on the East-West (Byappanahalli-Mysore Road Terminal) and North-West (Hessarghatta Cross-Puttenahalli Cross) corridors with 41 stations. The entire Phase 1 is expected to become operational by March 2014.

At M.G. Road Station

Mr. Kamal Nath, who arrived at the M.G. Road Station at 11 a.m. along with Karnataka Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda, Union Corporate Affairs Minister M. Veerappa Moily and a host of other dignitaries, inaugurated the station too.

The VIPs then went to the sleek building's second floor and inaugurated the platforms before flagging off the train and boarding it. A brief trip to Byappanahalli and back sent the signal that Bangalore's mass rapid transit system (MRTS) was up and running nearly three decades after it was first mooted.

The service opened to an enthusiastic public at 4 p.m.

Phase 2

In his address, Mr. Kamal Nath assured the Union Government's support for Namma Metro's 72-km Phase 2 and asked Mr. Sadananda Gowda to send the proposal at the earliest for the Centre's sanction. (To this, Mr. Gowda said the issue would be taken up in the next Cabinet meeting.)

When the 42.3-km Phase 1 is complete, it would take the pressure off the city's roads, in keeping with the Centre's policy of moving people and not vehicles, Mr. Kamal Nath said.

He lauded the Japanese Government for supporting infrastructure creation in India. On the occasion, BMRCL presented a cheque for Rs. 1 crore for tsunami relief to Japanese Ambassador Akitaka Saiki.

Political hue

The occasion took a political colour with both Mr. Kamal Nath and H.N. Ananth Kumar, BJP MP, robustly claiming credit on behalf of their parties for making the metro rail a reality saying it was their governments that initiated the process.

Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi, Minister of State for Railways K.H. Muniyappa, Ministers from the State Government, MPs and legislators were present.

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