Bengaluru: Dead lines of Namma Metro

Bengaluru: Dead lines of Namma Metro

(Photo Srikanta Sharma R)

The inglorious mess called Bengaluru traffic once had a savior in a glitzy new avatar: Namma Metro. But as Delhi, Kolkata and even Kochi Metros forge ahead, spreading tentacles far and wide, Namma Metro is stuck with a mere 42.3 kms. That is all there to show, nearly 13 years after construction kicked off on April 15, 2007!

Consider this: The much-delayed, much-realigned 55-km Metro line to the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) from Central Silk Board Junction via K R Puram is still in the tendering stage. Its deadline of 2023 is bound to be breached by years as the notoriously congested Outer Ring Road (ORR) remains in near-gridlock.

READ: As new Metro lines stumble, old problems resurface

Stuck in land acquisition woes, plagued by construction delays, Metro connectivity to Whitefield is not getting any closer. Designed with a long underground stretch, the Nagwara-Gottigere line too has a mountain of land issues.

Construction chaos

Caught in this twister, the message for the long-suffering road commuters is clear: The edgy wait for fast, seamless connectivity would only get longer, as the messy construction chaos gobble up more roads. From the Jayadeva Flyover demolition to the dusty Whitefield roads, there is no respite in sight.

The delay has a lot to do with non-compliance with the Detailed Project Report (DPR), which in any case is not in tune with the Town and Country Planning Act, notes Leo Saldanha from the Environmental Support Group (ESG).

Avoidable demolition

The Jayadeva Flyover demolition, he says, could have been avoided had the North South corridor gone underground along the Jayanagar stretch. “Cost efficiency was their argument then. Now the demolition and delays have escalated the costs. Nowhere in the world has there been such a colossal mismanagement.”

Plagued by delays, is there no hope in the horizon this year? The Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) could potentially operationalise at least two lines by the year-end, both extensions of existing Phase I lines. Scheduled for a likely opening are the 6.2km Yelachenahalli-Anjanapura Township line and the Mysuru Road-Kengeri stretch.

Airport line tenders

On the proposed Airport line, BMRCL recently invited tenders for two work packages linked to the 19.5km stretch from Silk Board Junction to K R Puram along the ORR. This Phase-2A stretch will incorporate 13 stations. The next tender for the Phase-2B stretch from K R Puram to KIA is expected in February.

Work on the ORR stretch is likely to begin only by mid-2020. Lakhs of commuters use this critical road stretch every day, triggering massive traffic congestion during rush hours. The Bus Priority Lane (BPL) launched here to boost public transport is yet to make a big impact. Metro work, notorious for delays and construction mess, spread over several months and years, could make it all worse.

Metro’s ORR saga

On paper, the Metro’s ORR agenda with stations at Agara, Iblur, Bellandur, Kadubeesanahalli, Marathahalli, ISRO, Doddanekkundi, DRDO Sports Complex, Saraswathipuram and K R Puram appears impressive. But commuters say they have been hearing about these for years, with nothing to show on the ground.

For BMRCL, speeding up the project would mean first getting bids for the tenders. Its first tender in 2018 for Phase 1-A had gone off track after the lowest bidder, IL&FS Ltd declared bankruptcy. The tenders were subsequently scrapped. The delay has meant a huge cost escalation. The fresh tender has put the project cost at Rs 5,950 crore, substantially scaled up from the 2016 estimate of Rs 4,200 crore.

TBMs arriving

On the Nagwara-Gottigere line, the only silver lining is the impending arrival of four Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) from China in the first quarter of this year. The first tunneling work is likely to start from Shivajinagar towards Vellara Junction, while another set of TBMs will work from Cantonment towards the Shivajinagar station.

For years, thousands of IT employees have been struggling to reach ITPL Whitefield by road. The skeletal suburban train services have offered only a partial relief. A DH reality check shows that the Metro line to this IT hub is a long way from completion.

Whitefield worries

Most pillars are in place but the stations are at least two years away from getting a final shape. The Kundalahalli, Nallurahalli, Sadaramangala and Garudacharpalya stations on this line all sport a basic, skeletal structure. Barriers are in place at all the station sites, triggering severe congestion during peak hours.

Frustrated by the delay, several tech employees who had preferred to wait for a reliable, fast public transport are now acquiring private vehicles, as Anand Venugopal, a Hoodi resident points out. “The existing suburban trains are few and overloaded. With a green signal from the Metro nowhere in sight, they are preferring private transport,” he says.

Bannerghatta Road

On Bannerghatta Road, where a new Metro line is now being built, smoke, dust and debris form a deadly mix. More than half of the motorway barricaded, the roads are so congested that motorists are extremely wary of entering the stretch. The Jayadeva flyover demolition that began recently has only aggravated commuters’ plight.

Residents in the vicinity of Dairy Circle, where many buildings and granite stores on either side of the road were demolished for Metro work, complain of machinery noises in the night. The constant hubub of workers and machines often disturbs their sleep. Delays mean there is no end in sight.