KIA Halt Station: Airport train, finally on track

KIA Halt Station: Airport train, finally on track

Pause that airport connectivity thought for a moment. In just over a month, you could be in a train chugging straight to the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA). Yes, that is exactly the promise of the halt station at the airport boundary, now in brisk construction mode, ready for completion in February.

Hop on to the train, bypass all that troubling road traffic, get off at the halt station and take a short five-minute shuttle bus to the airport terminal. Sounds perfect, but will you take it? Perhaps, depending on whether you are a passenger or an airport worker, whether the trains are frequent, fast and reliable.



So, here’s what you can expect on Day One of the train service: Four trains heading out from the city towards Devanahalli, stopping at the KIA halt station, and four trains from Devanahalli heading back. This may not trigger a dramatic switch from road to rail, but a new connectivity option finally gets real.

Scaling up

Skeletal but fast, cheap and with huge potential, the service could scale up quickly. The Yelahanka-Devanahalli line is today a single track, a definite stumbling block for capacity upgrade. “But you can double the capacity if the Doddajala and the KIA halt stations allow trains to cross,” notes urban rail analyst Sanjeev Dyamannavar.

The entire line could get a hyper-boost with electrification. The Divisional Railway Manager, South Western Railways, Ashok Kumar Varma has sent a proposal to electrify the 23km Yelahanka-Devanahalli line at a cost of Rs 30 crore. If the Railway Board approves this, fast, comfortable MEMU trains to the airport could be a reality within six months to a year.

Route electrification

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Electrification of the route, says Varma, will give more flexibility in operations. An SWR team is in touch with the Allahabad-based Central Organisation for Railway Electrification (CORE) to take this project on priority.

Since MEMU trains have engines on both sides, reversal could be achieved in minutes, Dyamannavar explains. “Besides, MEMU trains from Mysuru that terminate at Yelahanka could be extended upto Devanahalli via the KIA halt station. This will greatly benefit airport-bound passengers from Mysuru, Ramanagaram and Bidadi.”

An existing train (No. 76551) operates from Bengaluru City Railway Station to Kolar via Cantonment, Baiyappanahalli and Yelahanka. Once this train halts at the KIA Station, commuters could hop off the Metro at Baiyappanahalli and reach the airport in about 45 minutes spending not more than Rs 15!

More trains

More trains on this route could potentially alter the dynamics of airport travel completely. Channasandra Station, with two platforms and footbridges, is on this line, easily accessible from the Outer Ring Road. Another station at Thanisandra is on the SWR agenda. The implication is clear: Multiple boarding points will help shift commuters from road to rail in big numbers.

The low usage of the Channasandra – Yelahanka line opens up another attractive route: Whitefield to Devanahalli via K R Puram, Channasandra, Yelahanka and the KIA Halt Station. Once this becomes the new normal, commuters between KIA and Whitefield can look beyond the two existing road routes: ORR-Hebbal and Old Madras Road-Budigere Cross.

The Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) has already declared its intention to operate shuttle buses between the Halt Station and the passenger / cargo terminals. Once the second terminal T2 gets operationalised sometime in 2022, the bus network is likely to get even wider.

KSR-KIA in 45 min

To help passengers reach the airport for early morning flights, SWR has proposed to introduce trains from KSR Bengaluru City between 3.30 am and 4 am. “We are exploring this option. People can reach the airport in 45 minutes. Such services are also possible from Whitefield,” says Varma.

Airport employees, both regular and daily wagers, are expected to be the immediate beneficiaries of the halt station. Hundreds of them from Kolar, Chickaballapura and other distant localities could now take the cheaper rail option.

Growing KIA staff

By 2030, the number of people employed at KIA is projected to touch 2.35 lakh, working in three shifts of eight hours each. Currently, the shifts are from 7 am to 4 pm, 1 pm to 10 pm and from 10 pm to 7 am. From security to housekeeping, maintenance to cargo-handling, ground support to retail outlets, the airport staff strength has soared in recent years.

“These low income employees need good and affordable public transport by BMTC buses or Suburban Rail,” notes Rajkumar Dugar, a seasoned rail activist for the halt station. The halt station, he says, will eventually boost railway revenues and reduce pollution by private vehicles.

Patronage-based

The DRM has assured that more trains could be introduced based on the patronage. But before the frequency is boosted, a few pending projects remain: Signalling at the new halt station, road connectivity to the Airport Road, second platform level raise at the Devanahalli station and construction of subways.

Once the halt station is operationalised with all basic infrastructure in place, an estimated 500-1,000 airport-bound passengers are expected to take the trains daily. This, say analysts, will be just the right boost for the Railways to speed up capacity upgrades, and station development works.

Beyond airport workers, individual air travellers and students, will those who value the convenience of last-mile connectivity switch from the cabs to the rail? Perhaps many will eventually, if the trains are fast, frequent, comfortable, affordable and reliable. The next few months will be keenly watched.