Flicker of hope for suburban rail link to KIA

Flicker of hope for suburban rail link to KIA

Look beyond a Metro link and we could see a railway line passing right under the Trumpet Flyover, barely five kilometers from the Kempegowda International Airport. Why not use this is a cheaper, faster alternative connectivity option to link the city with KIA?

The state government seems to have finally realised the potential of this critical suburban railway link. Last month, Bengaluru Development Minister K J George announced the government’s decision to provide a rail link between Yeshwantpur and KIA operating on this line.

The South Western Railway officials, he said, had already given in-principle approval for the project. Next on the agenda is preparation of a Detailed Project Report (DPR). But what raises questions is the estimation that the project will cost around Rs 1,600 crore.

The Minister talked about the need for an elevated station at Yeshwantpur to facilitate this link. Also proposed is a station at the Trumpet Interchange near KIA or additional logistics at the Devanahalli station from where passengers can head to the airport.

Since rail traffic on the Yeshwantpur and Chikkaballapura is extremely low, a dedicated suburban train till the Trumpet Interchange could have been explored with the existing track. Urban commute experts had even said this service could be operationalised within three to six months by setting up a halt station at the Trumpet. The entire cost of the project, including signalling and AC rakes should not exceed Rs. 100 to Rs 150 crore, they had estimated.

But going by George’s statement, the government’s plan is to build an exclusive track parallel to the existing line between Yeshwantpur and Chikkaballapura. Technical challenges for this new line exist only between Yeshwantpur and Yelahanka. Beyond Yelahanka, no such problem exists, the Minister had said.

Even if the total project cost is Rs 1,600 crore, it would still be way below the cost of a Metro link, contends Sandeep Anirudhan, founder, Aikyam for Sustainable Living. “It is easier to build a new station, upgrade the signalling and introduce new coaches on the line than Metro. The per kilometer cost will not exceed Rs 10 crore,” he explains. Besides, he says, the carrying capacity of a suburban DEMU / MEMU train is four to five times that of Metro.

Social anthropologist, Usha Rao favours the suburbal rail for another reason: It is much more democratic in its access and approach to commuters. “The rail opens itself to different classes of people. Seventy per cent of the commutersdo not fall into the concept of the middle class as laptop-holding professionals. The Metro makes demands such as you cannot drink, you cannot eat, etc. There is no such thing here,” Rao explains.

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