Rs 10 for airport train ride, but no passengers!

A Rs 10 train ticket can take you within five kilometres of the Trumpet Interchange, barely a shout away from the Kempegowda International Airport's perimeter wall. Yet, less than 10 passengers take this train from Yeshwantpur Junction. (DH Photo)

A Rs 10 train ticket can take you within five kilometres of the Trumpet Interchange, barely a shout away from the Kempegowda International Airport's perimeter wall. Yet, less than 10 passengers take this train from Yeshwantpur Junction.

A DH team had the entire eight-coach Yeshwantpur–Devanahalli DEMU train virtually to themselves, as the locomotive chugged out of the station at 10.35 am on Friday. This ride could help hundreds of Devanahalli and airport-bound commuters bypass the costly cabs and congested roads. But the occupancy remains shockingly low. Why?

Conversations with the few passengers on that train revealed part of the problem: The 10.35 am start time will not benefit any office-goer, whether their workplaces are inside the airport or outside, in Devanahalli, near Dodjala or beyond. But there is another problem: Hardly anyone knows that this train even exists.

The train's coaches have two power cars and six travelling cars, mostly running empty. South Western Railway (SWR) officials en route to Devanahalli tried to explain it away: "This is a special train operated only for rake movement. That's why passengers are generally low in numbers."

Another reason for the low patronage was this: The train goes only up to Devanahalli. Extending it to Chikkaballapur will get more passengers. Currently, only two pairs of trains operate on this route, one in the morning and another in the evening.

Sources revealed that the track occupancy for the 13-km line from Yeshwantpur Junction to Yelahanka Junction is currently only 50%, reducing further to 29% from Yelahanka to Chikkaballapur. The message is clear: Doubling the number of services will not disrupt the existing train movements.

But SWR officials say frequency can be increased only if the signalling, stations and tracks are upgraded. Currently, stations en route have no signals but issue tickets. The number of level crossings, too, will have to be further reduced from the existing six between Yeshwantpur and Devanahalli. Road overbridges are critical, they say.

The Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) is ready to introduce shuttle buses between a new halt station on this rail route that passes through the KIA premises, and its terminals.

But activists ask: Why wait for the halt station? Let those shuttle buses go right up to the Dodjala station for a nominal charge. It could be a game-changer for airport commute by rail, saving both money and time.

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Rs 10 for airport train ride, but no passengers!

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