Rail link to Bengaluru Kempegowda International Airport to wait another Decade

Karnataka government is expecting a metro connectivity in its third phase from the city to the Kempegowda International Airport, which can happen only afer 2025

airport metro blrBengaluru: Just guess when will get rail connectivity to its airport? Not before 2025, the year passenger traffic is expected to touch 40 million and nearly two decades after the international airport opened for passengers. This is an optimistic estimate.

Karnataka government is expecting a metro connectivity in its third phase from the city to the Kempegowda International Airport, according to chief secretary Kaushik Mukherjee.

For the record, the first phase of 42.3-km long network, for which work began in 2007, is only partially operational. The second phase’s work, which costs Rs 26,000 crore, has barely begun with a timeline of another six years to complete. After this, work on the third phase is expected to begin, provided Bangalore Metro Corporation Ltd, the agency that is building the metro finalises a plan, get it approved and tie up the finances to build the network.

The Bengaluru airport, the third busiest in the country, handled 18 million passengers in the year to March 2015. So, in the next ten years, when passenger traffic almost doubles, expect the congestion on the roads to just increase. For the record, it takes around two hours from city centre to drive to the airport and from Electronics City, where offices of Infosys and Wipro are located, it takes much more.

“Poor connectivity will lead to exasperation of the passengers coming or going out of the airport. If the city is an economic hub for a state or the country, this could have an adverseimpact to the business community,” said Deepak Baindur, an expert on urban transport planning and management at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements.

Most cities have seen delays in Metro construction. In July, the Maharashtra government sought help from Delhi Metro Rail Corporation to expedite the construction of the Mumbai metro to 120 km from 11.4 kms before 2019. In Delhi, the has completed around 200 kms.

In Hyderabad, the city hopes to complete first stretch of 17 kms by 2016. In Chennai, the city opened its first stretch of 11 kms in July. Bengaluru, just to make matters worse, is adding more vehicles on its roads. The city has more traffic violations booked than the number of vehicles it has on its roads. 74.36 lakh traffic violations were booked in 2014. In March end, the city had 55.6 lakh vehicles.

The city can also claim to have more vehicles per person than any other in the country, with vehicles cruising at some partsof the city at less than 10 kmph. For every two Bengaluru resident, there areone and half vehicles – 55.6 lakh vehicles in March 2015 for a population of 9.5 million, according to 2011 census.

Since then, migration to the city has grown thanks to the high paying jobs the city generates and its cosmopolitanculture. It is not that the government did not plan rail connectivity to the airport.

A high speed rail network to the city was discussed long before work on building theairport began. It was shelved. Early this week, former Delhi Metro chairman E advocated again for a high speed rail network that will cover the 35 kms distance from city to the airport in around 20 minutes,instead of metro.

A six-lane highway that could dump passengers’ right into a traffic mess at Nagawara also got shelved. A half-built four-lane tollway is nowoperational on an existing national highway that connects the airport to Hebbal, an intersection that separates the highway to the city – it takes 30 minutes to drive 25 kms to this point and another hour to drive 10 kms to M G Road, the central business district.

Aren’t there solutions to sort this mess? Yes, there is. A railway station in Devanahalli connects the city and the track passes outside the airport campus. A 2005 plan to operate suburban trains to Devanahalli is still in the works.

“Railways certainly could address this. A line at Hebbal is under utilised. Instead of going for a metro, if we speedup the implementation for commuter rail network, it will be far more cheaper than the metro,” said Baindur. “We know the solution and if it is not addressed, the consequences for the city would be dire. If we are not able to provide public transit services, in effect, we will see more cars and services such as Ola car service.”