Bengaluru caught in a Metro trap

Metro work and traffic jam

Spreading its tentacles far into the future, the Namma Metro knew exactly where its lines were headed. Yet, lakhs of Bengalureans were forcibly trapped in unending commute woes as the Metro’s painfully slow progress halved precious road space, triggering unprecedented congestion.

Could this have been avoided with better planning, better inter-agency coordination and yes, a quicker pace of construction? An explosion in vehicular numbers meant every inch of road space would come at a huge premium. The alternatives just did not match up.

In Kengeri, K R Puram, Whitefield and BTM Layout, commuters are still caught in extreme peak-hour congestion, as Metro stations and pillars have eaten into the already overstretched roads. Poorly laid roads, exasperated by the monsoon have made it all unimaginably chaotic.

Additional load

The additional load on the roads sliced by Metro work has now taken a deadly turn. Last week, a KSRTC bus collided with the Metro barricade on Mysore Road and toppled. A five-year-old girl’s hand was severed and seven others injured.

A preliminary probe showed that the road was water-logged and in poor condition. It was tough to negotiate, although the bus speed and rash driving had also contributed to the accident. On stretches across the city where Metro work is in progress, the road condition is not too different.

If peak-hour congestion is the new normal on these stretches, pedestrian safety falls to an entirely different level. This grim reality is glaringly obvious in K R Puram, where barricades for a Metro station have left just an apology for a footpath.

Pedestrian woes

For thousands of passengers who step out of the K R Puram railway station, it is a nightmare to cross the Old Madras Road beneath the cable-stayed bridge, the only motorable underpass. But once they pass this extremely dangerous crossing, they literally stand on the road, as there is no footpath worth talking about.

Young children, senior citizens and the disabled risk their lives, as cars, buses and two-wheelers approach this spot at high speeds. A reality check by DH exposed the full extent of this dangerous scenario, an avoidable invitation to disaster.

The narrow strip left for walkers along the barricade is anything but walkable. Concrete blocks laid haphazardly at intervals scare away pedestrians, who prefer the road. But they risk getting knocked down by vehicles speeding from Mahadevapura Main Road and the Outer Ring Road, around a bend.

Barricade troubles

Metro construction work on the stretch between Central Silk Board and Jayadeva Junction is another big source of headache for commuters. The barricades have narrowed down the already high-traffic road here. High pollution sparked by the dust and debris have made it messier. Falling business has forced many commercial outlets to shift elsewhere.

The Jayadeva Flyover demolition work on this stretch has only added to the pollution and chaos. Peak-hour commute is today a nightmarish experience, complain commuters. An end to their woes is nowhere in sight as the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) data shows about 80% of civil works on this stretch is still pending.

Delay concerns

On Mysore Road, thousands of potential Metro commuters have been awaiting an early completion of the purple line’s extension till Kengeri. Despite assurances, ground reality has ‘delay’ written all over. And that has implied big problems for road commuters.

One among the lakhs facing the heat of this daily grind is Srinidhi Kumar L, Assistant Professor in Civil Engineering. A resident of Kengeri Satellite Town, Kumar is irked by the poor maintenance of the alternate road laid near the upcoming metro stations.

Alternate roads

He elaborates, “As the Metro line is coming up right in the centre of the highway, they have extended and built alternate roads. But the roads are poorly maintained. This is not up to the standards of a state highway connecting two main cities. I feel BMRCL and other civic body should coordinate well on this issue.”

Poor traffic management on the highway is another issue for Kumar. “The movement of heavy trucks should be stopped at least in the day time. The narrow alternate roads provided near the upcoming Metro stations are not fit to take the heavy vehicles.”

Multiple works

Multiple works on the same stretch has only made it worse. Ten-laning the Mysore Road has come into conflict with the Metro station work at Challaghatta near the Rajarajeshwari Medical College. But if this clearly shows a gap in coordination, commuters have no choice but to pay the price.

More woes are in store for commuters as the Metro’s second phase construction gathers pace. One sign of the things to come is visible right across M G Road. Traffic has mounted at the intersection of M G Road and Brigade Road with the partial closure of Kamaraj Road for an interchange Station.

But these troubles are not going to vanish in a hurry. Mobility experts say the construction work at this site could go on for another three to four years.

Would the wait be worth it for Metro commuters? Unlikely, since a changeover from the Purple line to the Gottigere-Nagawara line would mean crossing five levels, a taxing effort.

The second phase of the project is bound to trigger more problems as the BMRCL has extended the completion deadline to 2023. However, the Corporation is confident of operationalising most of the reaches by 2021.

But this would also mean another two years of commute woes for those heading to Whitefield and back.

(with inputs by Sandesh M S)

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