So near, yet so far

So near, yet so far

If smaller stations within City limits have stoppages for important trains, they can help reduce burden on the main stations.

The untapped potential of the Indian Railways network within the City limits has always been an issue, with poor infrastructure facilities at smaller railway stations around Bangalore increasingly overburdening the City Railway Station (SBC).

Passengers say that if smaller stations of the South Western Railway (SWR) such as Kengeri, Whitefield, KR Puram, Yelahanka, Baiyyappanahalli, Hebbal, Banaswadi, Karmelaram, etc, are well equipped and have stoppages for important trains, they could avoid the tedious haul all the way to the City Railway Station.

The last-mile connectivity from these smaller stations to nearby areas is another aspect the city managers need to look into.

Deccan Herald visited some of these stations and spoke with railway passengers, transport experts and railway officials to find out how things could be improved in terms of infrastructure and connectivity there.

Prabhath K N, a resident of NGEF Layout along the outer ring road, who was at the Kengeri railway station a few days ago to book his tickets, said: “I had to wait for more than 90 minutes to get my reservation done at the counter. Even though there are three counters (one for reserved and two for unreserved tickets), most times, one of the counters is closed because of shortage of railway staff. So, passengers end up waiting in long queues to buy their tickets,” he said.

Noor Ahmed, a resident of Kumbalgod, said stoppage of important trains such as the Shatabdi Express and Tippu Express would help passengers save travel cost and time. “Since these trains don’t stop at the Kengeri station, we have to go all the way to the city core to catch a train or get off at a station nearer home on the return journey,” he said.

Raju Kundapur, a regular train traveller, said ticket fares varied from one private franchise to another. “Service charge per ticket has been fixed at one rupee, but private agents charged up to Rs 10 extra for a ticket. A ticket to Mysore at a private outlet near Kengeri railway station cost me Rs five extra. I had to pay up as there was a mad rush at the counter run by the railways. Private players thrive when government facilities fail,” he said.

Sumana K, a resident of Banaswadi, said even though the SWR had displayed a list of facilities, including the number of drinking water taps, public address system and touch-screen inquiry, many of the services were either defunct or not maintained properly at the Banaswadi railway station. “Also, there is no proper mechanism for the public to lodge complaints or a follow-up mechanism for that matter,” she said.

The situation is no different at the Yelahanka railway station, a pass-through station where there are no terminal activities. In fact, the recent draft report submitted by RITES on the ‘Implementation of Commuter Rail System for Bangalore’, has highlighted the need for developing Yelahanka station into a terminal with more facilities for passengers.

The RITES report further says that except the SBC (which has 10 platform lines, six maintenance lines, eight stabling lines) and the Yeshwantpur station (six platforms, three maintenance lines and seven stabling lines), a huge potential remains untapped in many other stations in the City. For the same reason, the pressure on SBC and Yeshwantpur stations have been mounting, it pointed out.

Urban planner and civic analyst Dr A S Kodandapani says there has been a long-pending demand from transport experts and industry bodies to provide train stops on the city periphery so that long-distance travellers entering the City need not have to go all the way to the city core.

“Since we don’t havesuburban train services like in Mumbai, such stops need to be provided at important entry points. Also, the BMTC should work in co-ordination with the SWR to provide last-mile connectivity for passengers from the smaller stations to different areas. In the absence of such a service, private buses and vans are having a field day at some stations,” he said.

A senior member of the Federation of Karnataka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FKCCI) said the industry body had submitted a report to the State government and the Indian Railways requesting for stoppage of outstation trains at the City entry points so that passengers and freight mobility could be smoothened. “Stoppages have to be introduced at the earliest, as the number of train passengers is growing. According to the 2011 census, the population density per sq km in the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) area is 10,592. And the assumed decadal growth rate of population for BBMP is 25.29 per cent,” he added.

An official of the engineering section of SWR, however, said there were practical problems vis-a-vis providing stops for trains such as the Shatabdi Express at different stations within the City limits. “Trains like Shatabdi are meant for end-to-end journey and travel time counts a lot for such services. Also, stopping of such fast trains at different stations would disrupt the schedule of other trains. I agree there is a demand for stoppage of trains at the City entry points, but the proposal is still under consideration,” he said.

On the poor infrastructure at smaller stations, the SWR officials said facilities and stoppages of trains at a station depended on the density of population around it and the number of tickets sold there.

“As and when the density increases in the jurisdiction of the stations, more facilities will be added and stoppages for prominent trains provided,” he said.

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