During pandemic times, Bengaluru has done something unusual. It has provided a land rail link to Kempe Gowda International Airport through an airport station, four kilometres away. For ₹10-15, the airport can be reached within an hour travelling in an eight coach train with capacity to carry 2,000 passengers in contrast to paying ₹1,000 or more for a cab.
This can be done here too with minimum expenditure, if powers that be give a decisive push. South Central Railway is scheduled to complete doubling and electrification on the 13 km stretch between Falaknuma and Umdanagar before summer, when it will be possible to run MMTS suburban trains up to Umdanagar, six km from the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport (RGIA) at Shamshabad.
Bengaluru airport authorities have funded sprucing up of the airport railway station with flight display boards, seating, cafeteria, toilets, amenities for the disabled, etc., and are running free shuttle services to reach the airport in 20 minutes. The facilities right now near Umdanagar here are minimal and railways may not want to deck it up on its own.
There is also an unresolved funds share issue between SCR and the government - the latter owes up to ₹500 crore as part of pact to share 2/3rds cost of MMTS Phase II project. GMR group running the RGIA airport too has been rooting for a metro rail link from the beginning to provide a more plush service.
“We were offered an airport rail station 2-3 km away from the terminal when we wanted closer to the terminal so that passengers need not take another shuttle,” informed senior railway officials, seeking anonymity. Incidentally, in the proposed new Airport Metro to be executed by Hyderabad Airport Metro Limited (HAML), an underground station near the terminal is planned with 2.5 km to be built below the ground from the cargo station inside.
Rest of the 32 km airport metro is to be built on elevated piers, save for one km on ground, from Raidurg/Gachibowli via Outer Ring Road to RGIA. It costs upwards of ₹9,000 crore at ₹300 crore per km with GMR group investing ₹500 crore, but senior government officials are unsure whether the project will be taken up soon due to the cost involved.
Phase one of metro can also be extended to 5 km to MGBS-Falaknuma from where it is about 16 km to RGIA. However, this route is to be taken up much later as the government thinks traffic movement is higher from Gachibowli to RGIA.
With metro not happening, land rail appears to be best bet as it costs just ₹ 12 crore per km. “It can be a win-win situation as land rail public transport systems are cheaper, can carry more people and eco-friendly”, point out senior railway officials.