Absence of pedestrian paths, garbage dumped near work sites, difficulty in accessing skywalks, poorly maintained streets, absence of signage — these are just some of the inconveniences that road users near Namma Metro work sites are putting up with.
The recent accident near HBR Layout in East Bengaluru, when a reinforcement structure collapsed on a moving bike killing a mother and her toddler son, exposed yet again poor safety standards of the metro project.
Under fire, the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) suspended the construction of metro pillars that are 12 metres in height on the ORR-Airport line (Central Silk Board to Kempegowda International Airport) and other corridors.
After the incident, the High Court of Karnataka initiated suo motu a PIL petition to examine the safety measures put in place for the project. Metro officials claim that the recent incident was the first such while executing the project in which deaths of civilians were reported. In the past, there were several incidents of construction workers getting killed at metro work sites or road users getting injured.
For a reality check on whether interests of motorists and pedestrians are being protected, The Hindu visited the ORR-Airport line (under phase II A & B) and Kalena Agrahara to Nagawara (phase II) corridors.
Over 2,500 pillars
On the ORR-Airport stretch (Blue Line), the BMRCL is building a 55 km line from Central Silk Board to Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) via K.R. Puram, Nagawara and Hebbal. From Silk Board to Hebbal, the metro alignment is on the median of the busy Outer Ring Road by occupying 9 metres of the road. From Hebbal to Trumpet, the elevated line goes on the service road of the National Highway. The BMRCL is constructing more than 2,500 pillars on the 55 km stretch to link the city with the KIA.
Saurav Kumar, a regular commuter from Hebbal to Bellandur, said, “I usually go on bike to my work place. After the recent incident, it is very scary to go near the metro worksite. BMRCL should ensure that such incidents do not repeat.”
Residents living near the construction sites are demanding that roads and pavements should be maintained in good condition. Vijaya Prakash, a resident of Kasturinagar, said, “After white topping of the ORR, travelling on main roads became easier. But after some time, BMRCL began construction work. As the main roads have become narrower, motorists are taking the service roads and the roads within the residential areas. Dust and difficulty in accessing the skywalk are some other issues people are facing.”
From Hebbal and Central Silk Board, more than 10 skywalks have come in the way of the metro lines at places like Manyata Tech Park, Kalyan Nagar, Babusapalya, Kasturinagar, Kadubeesnahalli, Bellanadur and other areas. Some of the skywalks are likely to be dismantled to build the elevated corridor.
Tired of “adjust maadi” culture
Tired of the long wait for Namma Metro, Srilakshmi, a resident of Gottigere, said, “It has been more than five years. There is no sign of the metro work on Bannerghatta Road getting over. At many places, construction materials are dumped on the roadside, and people are forced to walk on the busy road. Some of the pillars are covered with nets. I hope nothing falls on the motorists. The mindset of authorities should change. They expect citizens to adjust to prolonged delays.”
The elevated line on Bannerghatta Road from Kalena Agrahara to Swagath Road Cross has been delayed for years. In 2021, the BMRCL terminated the contract awarded to the previous contractor after the company failed to deliver the work due to financial issues. Later, another contractor was chosen to execute the work. People using Bannerghatta Road have been facing traffic snarls.
Safety of civilians, workers
Chandra Kishen J.M. from Civil Engineering Department of Indian Institute of Science, who is investigating the recent accident, said, “While giving the contract, the safety precautions are explained to the contractor. Every activity on the work site, has a standard operating procedure. In our system, precautions that need to be taken while executing mega projects like Metro have not been prioritised. It is not about safety of only civilians, safety of construction workers are also at stake.”
On the progress of the investigation, Mr. Kishen said, “The temporary support for the huge structure was not sufficient. It also appears that it took a long time for putting up shutters around the pillar. In a few days, we will submit the report to the BMRCL.”
Changes in SoPs
BMRCL Managing Director Anjum Parwez said in the backdrop of the recent incident, the BMRCL will bring revised SoPs and safety protocols. “After the unfortunate incident, we have halted the construction of metro pillars that are over 12 metre tall not only on ORR-Airport line, but also on other locations. For the elevated corridor, there will be a metro pillar after every 20 odd metres. We are constructing pillars of 8 to 23 metres height, since there are many flyovers and underpasses. As the viaduct goes above these structures, high metro pillars are needed. On the Airport line, more than 800 pillars will be built which are more than 9 to 10 metres high.”
He said, “Following the incident, we have requested the IISc to find out the reason for the accident and come out with suggestions. Based on the suggestions, SoPs and safety protocols will be revised so that such incidents do not repeat in future.”
On road users’ safety, he said, “We have widened the roads wherever possible. We noticed that people are dumping garbage on footpaths or near metro work sites. We have asked BBMP to initiate action. We are ensuring that barricades don’t block the road. Wherever pillar works are complete, measures have been taken to remove the barricade for smooth flow of traffic.”
On removal of skywalks on ORR, the official said, “If the height of the pillars on either side of the skywalks are more than the skywalks, we will not dismantle them. Once the metro stations become operational on ORR, pedestrians will be able to use the stations to cross the road.