Bengaluru Underground Metro Rail section inaugurated

Bengalurians mill metro stations for their first ride to Mysore road. Bengaluru darshan, courtesy Namma Metro – Tunnel of hope amid Bengaluru’s traffic gridlocks.  Soon, Electric Mopeds for hire from Bengaluru metro stations for last mile connectivity too!

Union Minister for Parliamentry Affairs Venkaiah Naidu, Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah, Union Minister Ananth Kumar with others flagging off the Underground Metro Route from Cubbon Park-Magadi Road in Bengaluru on Friday
Union Minister for Parliamentry Affairs Venkaiah Naidu, Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah, Union Minister Ananth Kumar with others flagging off the Underground Metro Route from Cubbon Park-Magadi Road in Bengaluru on Friday.

Bengaluru: If criss-crossing the city has now become hassle-free with Namma Metro, Sunday saw yet another milestone.  South India’s first ever underground metro section connecting east west corridor of Banglore metro rail project was inaugurated here.  The 4.8 km long underground section from Cubbon Park to City railway station completes the 18.10 km long east west corridor, also called Purple Line.

In less than two weeks, you will also be greeted to a mix of new Electric Moped and Motorcycles with full tank fuel at different Metro stations for passengers on rent in. Called as ‘Metro Bikes’, about 30 two-wheelers will be stationed at five Metro stations for the benefit of commuters, who need mobility around the Metro stations. This is part of an attempt from the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) to achieve last-mile connectivity!

Commuters enjoying the first ride in the Namma Metro train in Bangalore
Commuters enjoying the first ride in the Namma Metro train in Bangalore

Buoyed mostly by picnickers, the ridership on the metro’s newly launched Purple Line, connecting Baiyappanahalli in the east and Nayandahalli in the west, crossed a record one lakh by the evening. The underground section that passes through Vidhana Soudha, the state secretariat, consists of five stations. Cost of construction for this stretch is about Rs 2,000 crore.

Enthusiasm in the air

An early morning ride in the metro on the purple line showed how enthusiastic the people of Bengaluru were to explore their new transport extension. A crowd puller in a way, the metro may have outdone its own targets in terms of revenues today. “Sky is the limit for Bengaluru. This is just the beginning, just wait and watch where Bengaluru heads to,” sermoned a senior citizen. As a couple entered in their jogging suits, it was evident that they are in for their first ride to Mysore road. When LMVs form 20.5% of the total vehicles on the road, one can imagine how the metro stretch will reduce the same and help in reducing the air pollution.

A fully packed Namma Metro train at Vidhana Soudha station
A fully packed Namma Metro train at Vidhana Soudha station

Some of the passengers opted to start their day in Cubbon Park instead of the local jogging track. On asking why they decided to do so, the man said “because I have never seen the metro layout following MG road. It would be fun taking a ride into the new stretch.” Some people, however, just wanted to explore and enjoy the ride early in the morning.

“The morning sun is beautiful in Bengaluru and we have come to enjoy that. We thought it best to have a ride together,” said a romantic couple. Another gentleman spoke about the environmental affects caused by cars and 2-wheeler.

“Imagine, Bengaluru roads have 38,41,139 two-wheelers and 11,41,455 cars at any point of the day. People have no choices because Bengaluru is spread across a huge area and there are hardly any direct communication systems here. With this phase of metro, most of the people can now commute to the nearest stoppage to their workplace and then take and auto and bus,” said a gentlemen.

However, not everyone is happy. The auto drivers can already feel the brunt. “I understand that this is good for the state, but we are in a mess. We will now have to look for another place to ply our autos. Nobody will take a ride to the areas covered by the Phase-I.” The first 6.7-kilometre (4.2 mi), 6-station stretch (Reach 1) of the Purple Line between Baiyappanahalli and Mahatma Gandhi Road opened on 20 October 2011. The second 6.4-kilometre , 6-station stretch of the Purple Line between Mysore Road and Magadi Road opened on 16 November 2015. The first underground section of South India, a 4.8 km stretch from Cubbon Park to Bangalore City Railway Station opened yesterday, thereby completing the entire 18.22 km Purple Line stretch of the metro network.

Namma Metro Underground Inauguration trialThe section was inaugurated by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Union Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu. They also inaugurated the station in front of Vidhana Soudha named after B R Ambedkar. With the completion of this stretch, out of the 42.3 km of phase 1 of the “Namma Metro” project, 33 km is operational. Phase 1 includes east west corridor of 18.10 km with 17 stations and 24.2 km of north south corridor with 24 stations.

At the inaugural event, Siddaramaih said first phase of Namma Metro “is almost 90 per cent complete and the rest will be completed by November 1 and will be free for operation.” “There was delay in completion of phase one as we stumbled up on a rock while working on underground stretch,” he said.

A sum of Rs 13,845 crore has been spent on phase one, out of which Rs 5,335 crore is borne by the state government. Stating that the second phase of metro will be about 72 km, Siddaramaih said it will cost about Rs 26,405 crore, out of which Rs 9,000 crore will be borne by the state. “Work on second phase has already started after required approval from the Centre and it is likely to be completed by 2020,” he said. With the operation of phase one, people travelling from Bayappanahalli to Mysuru Road, a distance of 18.10 km can be covered in approximately 35 minutes.

The view of Cubbon Park Underground station of Namma Metro Phase 1
The view of Cubbon Park Underground station of Namma Metro Phase 1

Naidu assured that the Centre government is cooperating with Karnataka government in realizing phase three of Metro project for which the feasibility study is underway. He said “with the opening of this line today, the total metro line operational in the country is 316 km in the cities of Delhi, NCR, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Chennai, Jaipur and Mumbai. Around 496 km is under construction in various cities….” “Another 580 km is under consideration for Vishakapatnam, Vijayawada, Pune, Ahemadabad and others,” he added. Union Chemicals and Fertilizers Minister Ananth Kumar, advocating multi-mode transport system for Bengaluru city, said for one crore citizens in the city, there are about 56 lakh vehicles.

wickedride Namma MetroAnil G, co-founder of Wicked Ride, a bike-rental firm, told, “The BMRCL has allowed the firm to set up kiosks at five Metro stations – Baiyappanahalli, Trinity, Indiranagar, Mantri Square and Peenya. We will be operational in two weeks’ time,” he said. Wicked Ride has won the contract for the next three years, he added. The customer will be given the two-wheeler of his choice after collecting proof of his/her identity and address proof. They have to return the vehicle at the same kiosk. The rent will be charged based on the time and distance factors.

The minimum charge is Rs 20 which entails the commute of 3 kilometres done within an half-an-hour. Every additional kilometre will be charged at Rs 3. The price will be reduced to those with membership card, the co-founder of Wicked Ride said.  “In the latter stage, we will include multiple docking stations all around the city with parking facilities. We have also initiated the process to launch a mobile-based application with pre-booking facility,” he said. Besides, the BMRCL has also approached the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) to provide feeder service at Metro stations.

Wicked Ride has been working closely with various agencies in solving the last mile connectivity problems seen in metros and Tier II cities. They also conduct Guided Adventure Motorcycle Tours to Many Places across India and Beyond

Record one lakh commuters travel in Bengaluru Metro on Sunday

A record one-lakh commuters travelled in the air-conditioned metro rail coaches on Sunday – a day after the service was opened for public — on the 18.1km east-west corridor, with 4.8km through underground. “On the first Sunday, after the service was commenced on Saturday, around one-lakh people travelled on the route since morning (6 a.m.) till late night (11 p.m.) on both ways from Baiyappanhalli in the east to Mysuru Road in the west,” said a spokesperson of the state-run Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (BMRCL).  It was ‘family day out’ ‘extended family day out’ and ‘babies day out’ along the underground Metro corridor on the first Sunday since its inauguration. A few working professionals also took a ‘test ride’ before their first trip to office by the Metro on Monday.

commuters Namma MetroIn a city dominated by private transport, Namma Metro on Sunday showed what it could be for thousands of travellers across the city, who shunned their vehicles to take a ride to the city centre.

One of the largest lung spaces in the city, the Cubbon Park, as well as the Vidhana Soudha and the Majestic saw a huge turnout of citizens, many of whom hitherto avoided coming for want of parking space, traffic, and the distance.

On the first day (Saturday) of the new service, about 93,500 commuters hopped onto the metro on both the routes, boarding at one of the 17 stations, with majority of them alighting at Majestic or MG Road stations and returning to their destinations en-route.

Trains were jam-packed and Metro stations were overflowing with commuters throughout the day. Security staff could be seen hollering at kids ‘not go beyond the yellow line’. Children ran around trying to snatch the balloons put up at the stations for the inauguration.

A family of 20 members figured among those who enjoyed a Metro ride on Sunday. They had boarded a train in the evening from Halasuru to Kempe Gowda Metro station. Muniraju, a retired employee from KGF, was seen shepherding the group comprising his wife, son, three sisters, three brothers and grandchildren.

“I wanted everyone in my family to travel by the underground corridor. So, we took this short trip,” he said.

His relative Rajiv, who works with a courier company, said, “The trip was very crowded both ways. The annual fair at Someshwara temple saw many travel from far away to Halasuru by Metro today,” he said.

Rayappa Praveen had taken the trip from Indiranagar to Sir M Visvesvaraya Metro station along with his wife Leena to assess the travel time from his house to office. “It took me just 15 minutes via Metro whereas the trip by road would take nearly 45 minutes. The trip was very good,” he said. Leena interrupted to add, “Must say it was a very comfortable ride, particularly the air-conditioned atmosphere. Felt really soothing.

Meanwhile, R Nandini was noticed expressing her disgust to her husband V Prasanna over the fresh paan stains that had defaced the wall near the escalators at Sir M Visvesvaraya station. “As a nation, we do not have a sense of ownership about public property. Why else would anyone do this?” she said aloud.

This 4.8km underground network on the East-West corridor linking Byappanahalli to Mysore Road Terminal, the two reaches of Namma Metro – Baiyappanhalli to M.G. Road and Magadi Road to Mysore Road – are expected to realise full potential, while also helping commuters cut travel time by half to reach the other end of the city
This 4.8km underground network on the East-West corridor linking Byappanahalli to Mysore Road Terminal, the two reaches of Namma Metro – Baiyappanhalli to M.G. Road and Magadi Road to Mysore Road – are expected to realise full potential, while also helping commuters cut travel time by half to reach the other end of the city

However, she was all praise for the trip. The couple reside in BCC Layout near Nayandahalli and she works as a cashier at Oriental Insurance Company near the BBMP office.

“I walked 1 km from my house to the Mysuru  Road station and we took a train to Sir M Visvesvaraya station. My office is less than 1 km from here and I can walk that distance too. This will definitely improve my health,” she added.

Charan Sathvik took the trip for the sake of his baby, Aditi, to simply look around. “The crowd was too much and we had to travel standing throughout the underground corridor,” he said. His wife Neetu intervened to say, “Despite that, we loved it. For, we only needed to stand for up to 10 minutes.”

The Cubbon Park Metro station was particularly crowded as many chose to visit the park from various locations for a family outing.

The five underground stations on the line promise to be a completely new experience for commuters. With massive stations, escalators, air-conditioning and services like Wi-Fi, which will come up soon, a trip through the underground corridor is something to look forward to
The five underground stations on the line promise to be a completely new experience for commuters. With massive stations, escalators, air-conditioning and services like Wi-Fi, which will come up soon, a trip through the underground corridor is something to look forward to

On metro’s debut in October 2011, about 85,000 people commuted between MG Road and Baiyappanhalli stations, the first 8km of the 42.3km first phase, including the 24.2km north-south corridor, which is in the final stages of completion.

“About 120 trips were made today (Sunday) as against 115 trips on Saturday, increasing the frequency and reducing waiting time for the next service to eight minutes from 10-15 minutes during the non-peak hours,” BMRCL public relations officer U.A. Vasanth Rao said.

Taking a break from oppressive hot and humid weather in the city, several curious commuters, including women and young flocked to their nearest metro stations for a joy ride in the air-conditioned coaches from spick-and-span station.

“I took the metro from MG Road to Majestic with my friends in the evening for a joy ride. Although all the three coaches were crowded, it was fun,” said Radhika, 22, a financial analyst with an international audit firm.

As women had to jostle for space to even stand in the packed coaches with male commuters, some of them told that the operator should have a separate coach for women and children to ensure their safety and security.

The actual impact of the belated service, bogged by delays and cost escalation, will be known from Monday to Friday and if the service reduces air pollution and minimises traffic snarls across the city’s thoroughfares.

Include Varthur Road in Metro Phase 3, say Whitefielders

With the announcement of feasibility study for Namma Metro Phase 3, citizens have started putting forth requests for inclusion of certain areas under the proposed project. In fact some have started a petition demanding extension of metro from Marathahalli Bridge to Varthur Road and beyond, as it will help in taking pressure off the roads.

Whitefield is now home to hundreds of industries, IT parks, malls, international schools, hospitals and residential spaces and is linked to the city by two roads – Old Airport Road and Old Madras Road. Both these road traffic gridlocks, especially during peak hours, and hence there is a need to introduce alternate modes of transport such as metro and suburban trains.

In his petition Jerin M. Jose said, “It is well known that Marathahalli Bridge and Kundalahalli signal are major choke points on this route. If the metro could be extended from Marathahalli to Varthur Kodi and beyond, it would provide a major boost to connectivity on Varthur Road.

Of late the Varthur-Gunjur stretch is turning into a major residential hotspot. By the time phase 3 begins, the traffic on this stretch would increase manifolds with Varthur road and Panathur road providing the only exit options. A metro rail route on this stretch will benefit a large number of residents along Varthur road and help in taking out a lot of vehicles off the road.”

Jerin is not alone, many people who commute on this route feel the same. Ravi Gopal, an IT professional, pointed out, “Most of the people take the Varthur Road and this creates huge traffic gridlocks. Even to travel half kilometre, it sometimes takes one hour. We need metro as soon as possible.”

Voicing a similar opinion another commuter Kuljeet Singh said, “The authorities should have planned metro in this stretch under Phase 2 itself, but even if they do it under phase 3 it will be welcome.”

Abdul Rahim, who was in the city with his wife Yufsia and two children to take metro ride said, “I live in Dubai and my family lives in Kerala. We came here on a holiday and got to know about the metro’s underground line inauguration and chose to experience it. I must say the infrastructure provided here is very similar to Dubai. Excellent experience.”

Essa who works in Vasanth Nagar also came with his family and children to experience the ride. His son Kaif (13) said, “It is very joyful and this is my first metro ride. I am enjoying it.”

“Most of them were asking for a ticket to the last stop either Baiyappanahalli or Mysuru road. They just wanted to experience metro ride especially the underground stretch.

“Our family could travel by car earlier but it was just too far and too much hassle. Now, we just have to get into a train and get out at the park within 20 minutes,” said Lokesh Gowda, who stays in Vijayanagar and visited the park with his family on Sunday.

Namma Metro ridersEven the Vidhana Soudha, which is normally deserted on Sundays, was full of people wanting to see the building after the barricades were removed.

Photographers, who usually have only some tourists visiting on Sundays, wore happy smiles on their faces as visitors flocked to the monument and lined up to get their pictures taken.

Cubbon Park in particular witnessed huge crowds, the likes of which have not been seen in a long time.

“I do not remember the last time when it was this crowded on a holiday. This has not been the case, unless there was some function or event. This is just not a normal Sunday,” said B.R. Rao, a regular walker at the park.

Steep rise in ridership
The total ridership on east-west corridor on Saturday was 90,482 as against an average of 20,000-22,000 from MG Road to Byappanahalli and Magadi Road to Mysore Road.

The total revenue generated on the first day of the opening of the east-west corridor was Rs 35 lakh. As for the frequency, from 8 am to 2 pm it was one train every 10 minutes, from 2 pm to 8 pm it was eight minutes, from 8 pm to 8.30 pm it was 10 minutes and from 8.30 pm to 10 pm it was 15 minutes.

Cheaper than AC buses, cabs
The cost of the Metro is said to be cheaper than BMTC AC buses and cabs. The fares range from Rs 10 to Rs 40 from East to West. Krishna Reddy, a 64-year-old farmer, clad in his traditional attire said, “We are here to visit High Court for some work and we chose Metro as it is less time consuming and cheaper. I paid just Rs 13 to travel in the air conditioned Metro to reach here.”

Boon for Soudha, HC employees
BMRCL officials said that many High court and Vidhan Soudha employees, residing in Vijayanagar and Rajajinagar areas, took the metro to reach their offices on Saturday morning.

Wheelchairs for senior citizens
The BMRCL provides assistance to senior citizens as the staff have been trained to help those in need. Also, the metro stations are equipped with wheelchairs. “We have laid special tiles across the Metro station for blind which lead them directly to the platform from the entrance,” said a BMRCL official.

Elaborate checks
For those carrying a heavy baggage, the security checks would be time consuming. A passenger has to go through a metal detector, a security check and baggage have to be sent through the scanners.

Lessons from phase one: Can Bengaluru Metro beat deadline blues in underground trail?

Bengaluru’s Namma Metro is finally all set to go underground from 30 April. With the opening of this 4.8 kilometre underground stretch, passengers can now travel an uninterrupted stretch of 18.10 kilometre from East to West of Bengaluru, otherwise called the East-West corridor or the Purple line.

Two on-ground stretches on the Purple line are already operational. Reach 1 from MG road, in the heart of Bengaluru, to the outskirts of Baiyyappanahalli and Reach 2 from Magadi road to Nayanadahalli on Mysuru Road. Phase 1 of the Metro project also comprises the North South corridor or the Green line of which Mantri Square to Nagasandra is also operational. A commuter can now change lines at Kempegowda station.

The Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation (BMRCL), a joint venture between the Government of India and the Karnataka government, got its approval for the Metro Rail project from the central government in 2006 at a cost of Rs 8,158 Crores. The implementation time envisaged then was five years for phase 1 of 42.3 kilometre track. The project cost for Phase 1 was revised from Rs 8,158 crore to Rs 11,609 crore and again revised to Rs 13,845 crore by the Karnataka government. The deadline kept getting extended too. BMRCL now hopes to finish Phase 1 by the end of this year.

Namma Metro has faced much flak for delays in execution and overshooting its deadline several times in the last two years. It is way behind Delhi Metro, also a joint venture between the Delhi government and central government. Delhi Metro completed Phase 1 and Phase 2 in 12 years.

At the rate it is going, Namma Metro’s Phase 2 is expected to take another 16 years for completion. And, we are not even talking about Phase 3 right now. Delay in land acquisitions, safety clearances and underground work are some of the reasons cited for the deadlines getting extended.

However, Pradeep Singh Kharola, managing director of BMRCL is not fazed by the delays and looks at it as a good learning curve. He told Firstpost, “We have learnt good lessons from phase 1. The phase 2 is on track and will be completed by 2020. The feasibility report for phase 3 has been prepared.”

Delays are not the only thing that has dogged the project. Last month,  some 30 loco pilots and 35 maintenance engineers had quit their jobs in a span of two months, citing low salaries. When asked whether there were enough trained and experienced loco pilots and engineers to run the trains, Khorala said, “We have no shortage of staff. Namma Metro recruits staff on a regular basis. Our salaries are comparable to equivalent government jobs in Bangalore.”

Meanwhile, another state government transport entity, the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) is miffed at not getting the parking bays it wants to run feeder services from the Metro stations. Bangalore Mirror reported recently that BMTC had wanted land at Baiyyappanahalli, Nayanadahalli and Vijayanagar for its bus bays. But BMRCL had refused space at Baiyyappanahalli, saying it plans to run a mega transport hub.

Khorala says, “Namma Metro is in touch with BMTC and wherever possible bus bays will be provided at the stations.” Green activists also have not been happy when Namma Metro went and chopped 2500 trees for Phase 1 and has plans on cutting down 313 heritage trees for phase 2.

Although Khorala says, “The trees are cut only when it becomes absolutely necessary. But we take care to ensure that enough trees as specified by the tree officer are planted,” activists have not been convinced that enough trees were planted or reviews done.

The Environment Support Group (ESG), reported on its website, that a public hearing to review the proposed tree felling for the Phase 2 of Namma Metro for 313 heritage trees was cancelled for the third time by the forest wing of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) last month. A public hearing is essential in keeping with the orders of the Karnataka High Court and the subsequent 2015 amendment carried out to the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act, 1976.

However, what might please the green activists is that Namma Metro is the first railway project in India commissioned with 750V DC Third Rail on Standard Guage.

What this means is,” BMRCL uses third rail traction. The current comes from a third rail mounted next to the normal track. Delhi Metro uses overhead traction. In overhead traction, there is a wire which runs high above the track. This wire at times interferes with trees. In order to avoid any such interference the trees or its branches have to be removed. There are no such issues with Namma Metro,” says Khorala.

To ensure safety of the underground alignment, BMRCL has also cautioned residents against digging bore-wells on the ground above the underground alignment of the metro rail. Henceforth residents wanting to dig a bore-well within a 35 km radius of the underground alignment would need a No Objection Certificate from the BMRCL. “Bore-wells on top of Metro alignments can pose a serious hazard,” adds Khorala.

Namma Metro runs some 50,000 trips now. But with the expected underground section being opened, BMRCL expects passenger traffic to cross two lakh per day.

 

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