On MG Road, Metro will be a circus

On MG Road, Metro will be a circus

Just when Namma Metro should have begun to offer tangible solutions to Bengaluru's transportation woes, the short-sighted and unilateral approach of Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (BMRCL) is returning to haunt both decision-makers and commuters. When phase I of the Metro was taken up, there was strong criticism from urban transport experts about the decision to build overground the 5.5 km purple line from MG Road to Baiyappanahalli. They had called for a 75-year perspective plan in building the Metro and had emphatically pointed out that in most big cities, within the central business areas, metro rail lines have been built underground. All that fell on BMRCL's deaf ears. The authorities insisted that the per-km cost of going underground would be 2.5 times higher than building it overground, and went ahead with their plan. As the lovely boulevard along Parade Ground made way for the ugly pillars and concrete carriageway, destroying the beauty of Bengaluru's signature street, the citizens' worst fears about the Metro came true.

With Metro now moving into the second and third phases, rapidly gaining popularity among the people who have taken to it out of sheer necessity, it is becoming clear that by going overground at MG Road, it was not just the aesthetics that was sacrificed. The Gottigere-Nagavara red line will be underground when it crosses the purple line at MG Road, and the design integration - or the lack of it, rather - will force passengers going from one line to another to walk at least 500 metres and descend or ascend 4 to 5 levels to catch their trains. Imagine the plight of women, children and the elderly when they commute on this route. This situation would not have arisen if the MG Road-Baiyappanahalli line had gone underground in the first place. It would have ensured smooth integration for upcoming lines, fewer technical challenges in creating different levels, and cost savings. Most importantly, it would have been convenient for commuters.

It is abundantly clear that BMRCL has repeatedly missed the very purpose of building the Metro at every critical juncture. After the fiascos at Yeshwanthpur and Cantonment, it is now the turn of MG Road junction. It only goes to show that BMRCL seems unable to envision even now what the fully built Metro system will be like and whether it will serve its purpose - which is to integrate multiple modes of transport into a seamless one. Since BMRCL, on its own, seems unwilling to consult the public or listen to experts, the government should consider ways to make the corporation do so, either by rewriting its charter to make public consultations mandatory or, if necessary, through court intervention.

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