The story so far
After years of waiting, the complete Bengaluru Metro Purple line linking the city’s eastern and western parts has officially commenced its operations recently. This development has significantly boosted the Bengaluru metro’s ridership and has also contributed to a noticeable decrease in traffic congestion, particularly along the city’s Old Madras Road, according to traffic police.
How did the full Purple Line evolve?
This year, Namma Metro marked its 12th anniversary since the inauguration of its first operational stretch, Reach 1, connecting M.G. Road to Baiyappanahalli (Purple Line). Finally, after 12 years, the eagerly anticipated Whitefield-Challaghatta Purple Line began its operations on October 9, completing the entire 43.49 km stretch.
Metro passengers, who had patiently waited, were thrilled to experience a hassle-free journey from Krishnarajapura to Baiyappanahalli (covering a distance of 2.1 km) and from Kengeri to Challaghatta (covering a distance of 2.05 km). This allowed them to avoid the nightmarish traffic congestion in east Bengaluru and parts of west Bengaluru.
The smooth, uninterrupted connection between Challaghatta and Whitefield spans 37 stations, allowing commuters to travel the entire distance in 76 minutes. This convenient journey comes with a fixed end-to-end fare of ₹60.
A few days after the metro line opened without much fanfare and became operational, Prime Minister Narendra Modi virtually inaugurated the Baiyappanahalli-K.R. Pura and Kengeri-Challaghatta sections of the metro’s Purple Line on October 20.
The entire Purple Line stretch has been unveiled gradually, phase by phase, over the years, beginning in 2011. Presently, the city’s metro system ranks as India’s second longest operational network, covering a total of 73.81 kilometres, after the Delhi Metro.
What are the main challenges?
South India’s inaugural metro rail encountered numerous challenges, such as delays and missed deadlines, causing significant inconvenience to the public for several years. This was exacerbated by the city’s existing congestion problems, which were further compounded by the ongoing metro construction.
Srinivas Alavilli, a public transport advocate in Bengaluru, pointed out that Namma Metro has misplaced its priorities in planning the metro line. He emphasized that constructing flyovers in places like Electronics City or Bengaluru airport road before the metro raises questions.
According to him, metro construction should have been prioritized in these areas. “Despite the numerous missed deadlines during the metro line’s construction, it is essential to acknowledge the challenges encountered in developing such substantial public infrastructure in a swiftly expanding city. Bengaluru, being a 500-year-old city, presents distinct challenges in urban development, particularly considering its rapid expansion,” he added.
What caused the delays?
According to BMRCL officials, the primary obstacles have been challenges related to land acquisitions and public interest litigations (PILs). Delays in metro construction have arisen due to difficulties in acquiring land from private individuals, the Forest Department, and other authorities.
A BMRCL official told The Hindu, “At the start of the metro project, there were protests against tree cutting. However, many of those protesters are now regular metro commuters. As the city grows, essential infrastructure like the metro is crucial for smooth connectivity, benefiting all commuters. Our progress was hampered mainly by PILs filed against BMRCL concerning tree felling. Furthermore, challenges in land acquisition and timely handover to contractors also played a role in the delays.”
How has metro helped commuters?
After the Purple Line was introduced, Namma Metro saw a significant rise in its daily ridership, with an increase of 80,000 passengers, according to the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL). This highlights the urgent demand for efficient public transportation.
Traffic police have observed a significant decrease in traffic volume, specifically by 12%-14%, along the Old Madras Road, a vital metro corridor and one of the busiest routes in the city, following the introduction of the Purple Line.
How good is last-mile connectivity?
Although the Purple Line has effectively convinced thousands to opt for the Metro as their commuting choice, the problem of last-mile connectivity within the city remains unresolved. Public transport specialists stress the importance of tackling this challenge, emphasizing that it is essential if the city aims to persuade more individuals to switch to the Metro system. “Giving priority to finding solutions for the last-mile hurdle is key to making Metro travel a more practical and user-friendly choice,” said Mr. Alavilli.
In partnership with the World Resources Institute, the Bangalore Political Action Committee launched the #Personal2Public campaign with the aim of encouraging people to decrease their reliance on personal vehicles. As a part of this initiative, the Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) has recently introduced feeder bus services that connect various metro stations to the prominent tech corridor, like Outer Ring Road.
In addition to ride-hailing apps like Uber, Ola, Rapido, and Namma Yatri, a dedicated app for addressing last-mile connectivity from metro stations has been launched recently, known as the ‘Metro Mitra’ app. This app, aimed at improving first and last-mile connectivity to and from metro stations, is a joint effort between the BMRCL and the Autorickshaw Drivers Union (ADU).
Should frequency to trips be increased?
Adding to the woes, the six-coach trains are currently overcrowded, causing long queues and inconvenience for passengers. Commuters have expressed dissatisfaction, noting that despite trains running every three minutes during peak hours, the BMRCL has been unable to manage the overwhelming crowd.
Metro train service frequency on the Whitefield (Kadugodi) – Pattandur Agrahara section is 10 minutes, and on the Pattandur Agrahara – Mysuru Road section is 5 minutes. During morning peak hours, the frequency on the Nadaprabhu Kempegowda Station-Majestic – M.G. Road section is three minutes, and between Mysuru Road and Challaghatta is 10 minutes.
The Nadaprabhu Kempegowda Interchange Station (Majestic), along with Indiranagar, Baiyappanahalli, and M.G. Road metro stations on the Purple Line, is witnessing a significant increase in commuters. This surge in passengers has presented challenges for the crew in managing the crowd effectively. Despite trains running every three minutes during peak hours, commuters have raised concerns, stating that the BMRCL is struggling to cope with the overwhelming number of people.
An BMRCL official said, “The frequency of trains will be increased according to demand, and efficient crowd management strategies will be implemented at the stations. The primary solution to reduce overcrowding is to add more train coaches.”
Why are new coaches getting delayed?
BMRCL officials have stated that the crowd problem will persist until they obtain additional coaches. Currently, BMRCL operates a total of 57 trains, with 33 serving the Purple Line and 24 allocated to the Green Line.
After winning a ₹1,578-crore contract in 2019 to provide additional Metro coaches, China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC) faced delays due to its inability to set up a manufacturing plant in India. BMRCL sent multiple notices to CRRC, hinting at the potential encashment of its ₹372 crore bank guarantee. Following this, the Chinese company partnered with Kolkata-based Titagarh Wagons to fulfill the contract by delivering the remaining coaches essential for under-construction stretches.
While metro lines are under construction?
In Bengaluru, though the Purple Line is fully operational, the Nagasandra to Madavara (3.14 km) in Green Line and R.V. Road Metro Station to Bommasandra (19.15 km) Yellow Line is scheduled to be opened for public use in April 2024. On the other hand, Kalena Agrahara to Nagavara, which is 21.26 km long Pink Line, is planned for completion before March 2025. The Central Silk Board to Kempegowda International Airport (Blue Line) is scheduled to be completed by 2026.