25-minute rail link: Airport halt station in 9 months

A DEMU train passes close to the airport periphery near the spot where a halt station is to come up. DH File/Shivakumar B H

A 25-minute suburban rail link to the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) will be ready in nine months. The airport operator has confirmed that a halt station inside the KIA campus will get operational soon.

Discussions between the South Western Railways and the Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) are at an advanced stage. “Technical coordination has been in progress for months. The halt station will be a reality in nine months,” a BIAL spokesperson told DH. Once the station gets operational, BIAL will operate its own shuttle bus services to and fro the terminals.

The rail link could be a game-changer for lakhs of airport commuters and KIA employees. Currently, both passengers and airport workers are dependent on costly cabs and BMTC Volvo buses, negotiating the congested traffic bottlenecks on Airport Road.

Here’s how the airport link will work as a much faster and cheaper commute option: The airport train will start from Yeswanthpura Terminal, pick up more passengers/airport staff from Yelahanka and arrive at the new halt station in about 25 minutes.

A reality check by a DH team on an existing DEMU train from Yeswanthpura to Devanahalli had clearly established the benefits: Spending just Rs 10 on the ticket, the team could reach the halt station location in less than 25 minutes.

But the airport officials contend that passengers with heavy luggage might find it tough. However, for those with light cabin luggage, the rail option could work well. They could reach Yeswanthpura by the Metro and hop on to the airport train to bypass the congested, time-consuming road trips.

To help airport employees, BIAL had earlier inked a deal with the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) to run shuttle buses between KIA and Hebbal, with stops at the Trumpet Flyover, Toll Plaza, Chikkajala and Yelahanka.

The low 29% occupancy of the single-track Yelahanka to Chikkaballapura route implies a dedicated airport train can be operated at a high frequency. However, railway officials say the track, signalling and stations en route will have to be upgraded, besides cutting down the number of level crossings.

Urban rail activists have been campaigning for years to operationalise this critical airport link.

Their rationale: This option can be launched at a fraction of the cost of an Airport Metro link. The Namma Metro link could take at least five to six years before it gets its first passenger.

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