Tenders called for tests for Bangalore Airport Metro Rail link

BANGALORE: The Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) has called tenders for tests for the proposed Metro to airport though the detailed project report is yet to be finished.

Backed by the feasibility study, Metro officials have decided not to lose time in waiting for DPR and be ready with all the required test reports when time comes.

The two separate tenders include a range of surveys from topography and soil testing land and property survey, including alignment. While the bidding process will take about a month, the BMRCL has set a deadline of six months for both successful bidders to submit the final reports.

The state government finalised the route to the airport over a month ago. Accordingly, the line will begin from Nagawara and continue on Thanisandra Road before turning left near RK Hegde Nagar.

The Metro line will meet the Airport Road (NH 44) near Gandhi Krishi Vijnan Kendra and run along the highway flyover till the trumpet flyover where it will turn right to reach airport.

The airport Metro will be an extension of 21-km Gottigere-Nagawara line proposed in Namma Metro Phase 2, which has a 13-km underground section. The state government has directed the BMRCL to complete Phase 2 by 2020.

It remains to be seen whether work on airport route will be taken up simultaneously with Phase 2 or after its completion.

The just-finalised Metro link tender for Kempegowda International Airport will take over five years to take off. Why not use an existing rail track that runs right under the Trumpet Flyover to operate an airport train is the question in frequent debates?

The fast expanding Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) had to be linked to the Namma Metro network.

There was no choice. The question is not why, but when and how. Now that the route has been finalised, isn’t it time to ask how fast will the project take shape, and think about alternatives to make up for the inevitable delay?

Yes, delay. Inevitable, because the Metro’s first phase itself is yet to be fully operational and the second phase could take six years or more. Besides the Detailed Project Report (DPR) for the airport link is not ready yet. The message is clear: To be integrated with the second phase, the link will not happen in a hurry.

The finalised route is an extension of the 21.25 km Phase 2 line from Gottigere to M G Road to Nagawara. This line had entered the tendering stage for civil construction in March 2017.

Modified route: The chosen route does not exactly match any of the nine routes floated for public response. But, as the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) officials explain, it is a modification of two of the suggested routes.

Citing security guidelines, KIA operator, the Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) had ruled out allowing the Metro line anywhere near or under the second runway being built now. The line had to enter the airport premises only from the Trumpet Flyover side, and that is exactly how the finalised route has taken shape.

Much of the 28.4-km link route will now run on NH-44, the existing Airport road before turning right at the Trumpet Flyover. The Flyover is expected to be widened to six lanes and modified to accommodate the Metro line.

Extended timeframe: It is learnt that the elevated Metro line will run on the left side of the BIAL main road, before going underground near the Air Traffic Control (ATC) building towards Terminal 2. Enroute to the terminals, the line will get a station near the Fuel Farm within the KIA premises.

But all these will take over half a decade to get anywhere near completion. The air passenger numbers are estimated to exceed 65 lakh by then. Inevitably, the existing Airport road will be inadequate to cater to the mounting traffic. The alternative road, now under construction, will be the only other option.

Existing rail link: This leaves a critical question unanswered. Why is there no interest in exploiting an existing railway track that leads from Yeshwantpur, Baiyappanahalli and Yelahanka stations, and runs right under the Trumpet Flyover? What is the rationale behind not using this link for airport connectivity?

Urban mobility experts have repeatedly stressed on the Railways allowing a halt station at the Trumpet Flyover. Airport taxis and shuttle buses could then take the passengers right up to the terminals, only five kilometres away. Is this not the best option till the Airport Metro link gets operationalised?

Low cost option: This project could be completed at a fraction of the Metro cost at less than Rs 150 crore in about three months. The Yelahanka-Channasandra track has already been doubled and electrified. Extend this to Baiyappahanalli, add a halt station under the Trumpet Flyover and kick off the train. Currently, the Yelahanka-Devanahalli line is underutilised. A high frequency, airconditioned airport train could be operated even with the single track. The halt station will cost about Rs 15 crore, the electrification of the Yelahanka-Devanahalli line another Rs 20 crore and about Rs 75 crore for the new coaches. But neither the state nor the Railways has shown much interest in this project that could boost multi-modal transport options to the airport. Urban mobility analyst, Sanjeev Dyamannavar reminds that these options will also benefit commuters bound for the aerospace park near KIA.

Final route issues: Once the commuter rail link is operationalised, the state could tackle the challenges posed by the chosen Metro link route. Issues there are aplenty, as Dyamannavar points out. For instance, the Government Flying Training School (GFTS) in Jakkur will lose its runway space. Its flight training potential will take a hit.  These issues could have been avoided if the Metro link extension from Nagawara had followed the alternative road route. This would have meant taking the Bagalur-Mylanahalli-Begur route before turning right to the airport, bypassing the second runway.