Over 14 years on, commute to Bengaluru airport continues to be a daunting task

In the absence of a robust mass transit system to the airport, air passengers are forced to rely on taxis or private modes of transport, making their way through traffic gridlocks and poor roads

Updated - November 05, 2022 09:58 am IST

Published - November 03, 2022 11:00 pm IST - Bengaluru

The KIA halt station. The South Western Railway runs MEMU train services to the airport, but the patronage has not been promising.

The KIA halt station. The South Western Railway runs MEMU train services to the airport, but the patronage has not been promising. | Photo Credit: SUDHAKARA JAIN

Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) completed 14 years of operations on May 24, 2022. Over the years, the Bengaluru airport, which is located 35 km from the centre of the city, has made significant achievements in expanding its infrastructure, including operationalising a second runway and giving more comfort of travel to the passengers by way of introducing biometric, contactless travelling, and others. Once the T2 is fully functional, it will further boost passenger footfall.

However, one thing that has remained unchanged is the arduous task of travelling to the airport. Unfortunately, in the absence of a robust mass transit system to the airport, air passengers are forced to rely on taxis or private modes of transport manoeuvring through traffic gridlocks and poor roads.

Interestingly, even before the airport started commercial operations in 2007, the then government had proposed to build a high-speed rail link connecting M.G. Road with Devanahalli. However, in 2013, the project was nixed citing higher cost and non-feasibility, and instead, a metro line was favoured.

Meanwhile, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) upgraded the highway linking the airport from Hebbal to Trumpet. For more than a decade, people going to the airport have been paying a toll to use the road.

As the vehicle numbers in the city increased from 50.33 lakh to over 1 crore in the last decade, resulting in heavy congestion on the roads, travel time to reach the airport too has gone up. When it rains, there are many instances of Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) issuing advisory asking air passengers to “plan their travel” to reach the airport in advance.

Smitha V., an air passenger, said, “It is very unfortunate that authorities have failed to provide a mass transit system to the airport, which is one of the busiest in the country. There is a need to make travelling to the airport affordable and faster. Now, the metro is being constructed to link the airport. There is a need to expedite the project in the interest of the public.”

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The options

Ashish Verma, convenor of IISc Sustainable Transport Lab, said in 14 years, the airport has seen expansion in terms of adding infrastructure on the campus, but when it comes to the public transport system, there is no progress when passenger volume has increased drastically.

“We still see Vayu Vajra services of the BMTC and nano addition of Fly Bus by the KSRTC. A majority of the people continue to rely on taxis to reach the airport. The airport boasts about sustainable operations, green airport, providing various travel comforts and others. But how thousands of people approach every day, fossil fuel consumption, impact on environment, traffic congestion has not been taken cognisance of by the operator as well as the authorities all these years. When the tollway was constructed, the same corridor should have been used for providing metro links. Authorities concerned should take a clue from airports that are well connected and provide better access,” he said.

The BMTC, which has been providing the Vayu Vajra services for 14 years, is at present running 110 buses to the airport. Close to 12,000 people are relying on this service. Most of the passengers rely on taxis and private vehicles to reach the airport.

On other hand, the South Western Railway is running MEMU train services to the airport, but the patronage has not been promising. The SWR, BIAL and other stakeholders held discussions on improving the ridership, but hardly a few passengers are using the services.

Blade, an urban air mobility company which launched helicopter services from HAL airport to KIA, said that in the last 20 days, the service has seen 70 % of occupancy. The service charges ₹3,250 plus tax as fare.

Airport metro link

The Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) is building 55 km ORR – Airport metro line from Central Silk Board to KIA. The metro alignment goes via K.R. Puram, Nagawara and Hebbal. BMRCL MD Anjum Parwez said that earlier, a deadline was set to commission the line by mid-year of 2026.

“While planning the metro link to the airport, expansion of airport was taken into consideration to meet the travel needs of passengers for the next 30 years. The project is going at full swing. We have already floated a tender for rolling stock. Only a tender is pending for signaling, which will be floated soon. Once the line opened for commercial operations, 6.5 lakh people can travel every day. We are working hard to complete work by mid-2025. On the other hand, the Kalena Agrahara to Nagawara line that will be linked to the airport line at Nagawara will be completed by 2024.”

The K-RIDE (Rail Infrastructure Development Company (Karnataka) Limited) is proposing to construct a suburban rail network from Majestic to Devanahalli linking the airport. Though the K-RIDE was asked to consider implementing this line on priority basis, it was not taken up for construction. In the first phase, the K-RIDE has taken up Baiyappanahalli to Chikkabanavara line. 

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