The 67-km-long Yeshwanthpur-Hosur rail line, proposed as a circular railway around Bangalore, needs to be put to better use
It is a resource that is grossly underutilised which could take some pressure off Bangalore's roads.
But it seems few have time and patience to listen to the voices from civil society activists who have been arguing for a holistic planning of the transport network within and around the city.
Even as Bangalore's notoriously narrow thoroughfares are subjected to ever increasing motorised traffic, the 67-km-long Yeshwanthpur-Hosur rail line remains defunct.
Encircling almost two-thirds of the city from its western side to almost the southern periphery, the single track line has long been envisioned as the future circular railway around the city.
But for the most parts, it has remained a dream for the city fathers. It has found nothing more than a grudging acknowledgement from the Indian Railways who have, by and large, remained deaf to pleas for an active role in conceiving a suburban railway for metropolitan Bangalore.
Starting at Yeshwanthpur in the western periphery, the line passes through thickly populated northern and eastern parts of the city inhabited by nearly 45 lakh people.
These areas feed an estimated six lakh commuters into the bursting-at-seams BMTC services.
Alternatively, the hapless road-users depend on personal vehicles to go to schools, colleges, factories and business districts. With few major arteries serving the area, the traffic moves at snail's pace, taking a lot of time. One-ways, dug-up streets, civil work for the Metro are some of the hassles that routinely mess up the road-users. .
Moreover, the track could have been conceived to link important corridors such as Tumkur Road, Hebbal-Bellary Road, Old Madras Road at Baiyappanahalli, Varthur Road, Sarjapur Road, Hosur Road and Anekal Road.
Buses or even private vehicles bringing thousands of commuters from various areas would have found the rail network useful to access various destinations on the periphery of the city. But nothing of that sort has happened.
Currently, the Railways runs just two (Yeshwanthpur-Hosur) daily services, one each in the morning and evening, on this crucial semi-circular garland route around the city. If this resource had to be inducted into the city's traffic decongestion plan, the train services could be enhanced from one to three from each side during morning and evening peak hours, says Satish, an IT engineer who daily commutes to work from Yeshwanthpur to Heelalige station.
The question of last-mile connectivity comes next. Most stations would need bus stops, auto stands or car parks. Currently, even crucial stations such as Banaswadi look forlorn, with passengers being at the mercy of the few autos that ply in the vicinity.
Thirdly, in order to retain the surface transport efficiency in the area in the wake of enhanced rail services, a couple of over-bridges would need to replace level crossings near Mathikere, Sanjaynagar, Nagawara and Karmelaram. A pedestrian underpass may also be in order beneath the gargantuan Hebbal flyover.
Fourth on the agenda should be the provision of two more rakes for the existing trains. The current rake is an old one contrived out of a polyglot of coaches, some of them with day train seats and others with conventional old-style coupes.
The rakes to be introduced need to be more friendly for hop-on, hop-off commuters with wider doors, provisions of special coaches for vendors, and possibly space for more standees or even those who would like to carry bicycles in order to have their own last-mile connectivity.
It also presupposes elevation of platforms to the train level at most of these eight stations. Fifth, three more critical points on the route, namely Baiyappanahalli, Marathahalli and Old Madras Road, require stops or stations.
These will ensure greater viability for the services by ensuring larger volume of commuters.
The current track skips Baiyappanahhali by a distance of nearly 800 metres galloping through an over bridge. Joining the two preferably by a travelator (moving walkway) would enable effective induction of the sector into the city's transport scheme.
The BMRCL reportedly has a travelator on its agenda at Baiyappanahalli, albeit to connect to an upcoming mall nearby.
Imagine the joy of a commuter who reaches the city centre on M.G. Road from Yeshwanthpur in a flat 35 minutes (20 minutes from Yeshwanthpur to Baiyappanahalli, five minutes at interchange and 12 minutes by Metro to M.G. Road.) sans the hassles of a road journey.
Says Sathya Sankaran, an activist with civic portal Praja, “Railways have plenty of land, which is currently vulnerable to land sharks on either side of the track.
It could be put to effective use to fulfil the inevitability of the doubling, if not now, in a decade or two.”