Bengaluru’s suburban rail dream inches closer to reality

After decades of wait, foundation stone for the project to be laid on June 20 

June 17, 2022 01:45 am | Updated 10:25 am IST - Bengaluru

K-RIDE, the implementing agency, has been given the target to complete the suburban rail project in Bengaluru in six years.

K-RIDE, the implementing agency, has been given the target to complete the suburban rail project in Bengaluru in six years. | Photo Credit: File Photo

Offline and online campaigns carried out by citizens and rail activists in Bengaluru compelled both the State and Union governments to approve the suburban rail project in the city. The Centre gave its nod to the project in October 2020. On June 20, 2022, the suburban rail network will inch closer to becoming reality as Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lay the foundation stone for the project.

The project, which comprises four corridors and is estimated to cost ₹15,767 crore, will be implemented by Rail Infrastructure Development Company (Karnataka) Ltd. (K-RIDE), a joint venture of the State government and the Ministry of Railways.

In Phase I, K-RIDE will take up the civil works of Corridor - 2, named Mallige; this network will be built from Baiyappanahalli to Chikkabanavara. The rest of the three lines — KSR Bengaluru to Devanahalli, Kengeri to Whitefield, and Heelalige to Rajankunte — will be taken up for construction at a later stage.

A K-RIDE official said civil works would initially start from points such as Hebbal, Yeshwantpur, and Banaswadi. The Mallige line will have a network of 25 km and 14 stations will come up at various points along the alignment. Asked whether K-RIDE has issued work orders to the construction company chosen to implement the project, the official said, “For some components work orders have been issued and the rest are in progress.”

The official added that K-RIDE was already in possession of a majority of the land to implement the project and private land, to the extent of 12 acres, was being acquired through the Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board. The official maintained that approval had been sought from South Western Railway (SWR) on design, integration, and other aspects.

Integration with other modes of transport

As the city readies for another option for mass transport, it is the non-integration of several modes of transport systems and the absence of easy access points that have been the bane for commuters. At Majestic, passengers are yet to find seamless access points connecting the metro station, railway station, and bus stands.

More than a decade ago, the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) had proposed to build a multimodal transit centre at Majestic to connect various modes of transport, but the proposal still remains on paper. It has been years since the operation of Namma Metro from Yeshwantpur commenced, but the authorities are still buying time to link it with the railway station. One more example is the recently commissioned Sir M. Visvesvaraya Terminal, a state-of-the-art airport-like facility for which the Railways spent ₹314 crore. Optimal utilisation of the terminal will be possible only when the authorities come up with a comprehensive road network plan and integrate the station with S.V. Road Metro station located close by. Non-availability of road network was one of the factors that delayed the opening of the terminal for public use. 

Railway activists are demanding that K-RIDE and other agencies such as Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. (BMRCL), the SWR, Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation, and the KSRTC should plan better, connecting various modes of transport. As per the detailed project report prepared for the suburban rail project, inter-modal integration has been planned at locations such as Kengeri, KSR Bengaluru, Cantonment, Baiyappanahalli, and Chikkabanavara.

The K-RIDE official said, “Many rounds of deliberations have happened on integrating various modes of transport. The Mallige suburban rail network, for example, will be linked with other modes of transport at Yeshwantpur and Hebbal.”

Anjum Parwez, BMRCL managing director, told The Hindu: “The proposed suburban rail network and other modes such as metro should complement each other. For that to happen, ensuring seamless connectivity is very much essential by providing footbridges and travalotors. We have had multiple deliberations in this regard.”

The Namma Metro alignment will meet the suburban network at various points in the city, such as Cantonment, Baiyappanahalli, and Hebbal (under Phase III).

Air-conditioned, metro-like trains  

As per the mandate given, K-RIDE will involve private players in the operation of metro-like AC trains. However, a section of people argues that running only AC coaches and collecting fares on a par with metro fares will go against the interest of the general public. They say suburban trains should be made more affordable by running non-AC coaches.

Bringing the project in six years

The implementing agency, K-RIDE, has a target to bring the suburban rail project in 2,190 days (six years). Will K-RIDE be able to meet the deadline is the big question. An SWR official said, “The suburban rail project comes with various challenges, prominent among them is K-RIDE building its network along the one that is operational. This itself is a huge task. In densely populated areas along the Kengeri–Whitefield line, especially in the central business district, there are several buildings located on either side of the tracks. Shifting of utilities in such places will likely involve challenges.” 

Rail activist Sanjeev Dyamannavar said, “The suburban rail project is a long-pending demand. Unfortunately, successive governments failed to implement the project. Way back in 1998, surveys for providing local trains for the city were conducted, but the proposal faced several hurdles for over two decades. When the Central government gave the green signal for implementing the project in 2020, everyone expected that it would be expedited, but that did not happen. All the authorities concerned should work in unision to make suburban rail network a reality as early as possible.”

Future expansion

The DPR prepared for the project states that though the suburban rail network is restricted to Bengaluru city limits, it can be extended considering the future ridership once the lines become operational. It states that KSR Bengaluru to Devanahalli line may be extended up to Chickballapur, Baiyappanahalli to Chikkabanavara line may be extended up to Tumakuru, Kengeri-Whitefield line up to Ramanagaram on the south-western side and Malur/Bangarpet in the north-eastern side. The Heelalige–Rajankunte line may be extended up to Doddaballapur on the northern side and up to Hosur on Heelalige side.

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