Declared the third busiest airport after Delhi and Mumbai, Bengaluru’s Kempegowda Internataional Airport saw a record 33.30 million passengers use its services the last fiscal. But despite the rise in air traffic from the city, travel to the airport remains tedious on its congested roads as the Metro line and surburban rail service to the KIA are no nearer to being built. While delays in clearances are reportedly to blame, transport experts complain the authorities are making no effort to explore other possibilities that may be easier to implement in the short term, reports NISCHITH N.
Bengalureans are flying as never before with a record 33.30 million passengers using the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) in the last fiscal, which is 23.8 per cent more than the previous year. But while passenger traffic to the KIA has risen sharply, little has been done to help the people get to it faster and easier on the jam-packed roads leading to it.
In the absence of a dedicated rapid transportation facility like the Metro Rail or a high-speed rail connecting directly to the airport, the passengers have a hard time getting to it. Though the Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation (BMRCL) and South Western Railways (SWR) have announced rail lines to the KIA, a delay in approvals from the Centre is reportedly holding back the projects.
While the state government has approved Namma Metro’s Phase II-A, which covers an 18-km Outer Ring Road and Phase II-B, which includes the KR Puram to Kempegowda International Airport line, in January, the BMRCL says it is awaiting a green signal from the Union government to begin work on it.
“It’s very difficult to reach the airport by road. Much of the blame for the delay should fall on the BMRCL as it has made little headway in building the airport line of the Metro Rail. It could make a real difference as currently it takes almost one hour just to reach Hebbal. The introduction of the suburban rail services, which were announced recently, will also help hundreds of workers employed at the airport travel long distances, and make it cost-effective for passengers to commute to the airport as well. Hopefully, there will be no more delay in this project too” said Puneeth, a regular flyer.
But his hopes may not be answered in a hurry as the Union ministry of housing and urban affairs (MoHUA) has reportedly rejected Namma Metro’s proposal for the airport line as the detailed project report (DPR) did not comply with the Metro Rail Policy, 2017. As part of the new appraisal framework, the BMRCL has to now prepare a comprehensive mobility plan (CMP) and a separate alternative analysis report, besides a reworked DPR to make a case for allowing some private companies to invest Rs 100 crore each towards building the Metro stations.
Explained a BMRCL official, “There are many challenges before the corporation to construct a Metro line to the airport like funding and land acquisition. But it is holding simultaneous talks with financial agencies for funds and the government for approvals to save time. The project is in an advanced stage. Although under Namma Metro’s original plan, it was supposed to be ready by 2023, it has been held up due to delay in clearances.”
Tenders for the 19.5km Silk Board-KR Puram (Phase 2A) and 36 36.7km KR Puram-Kempegowda International Airport (Phase 2B) sections of the Metro too haven’t been finalised yet and the BMRCL has not disclosed the progress it has made on land acquisition for these two lines.
New Metro route to increase travel time
The revised route for the Metro line to the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) is expected to make access to it tedious for commuters from some parts of the city although the cost of the project has risen by 44.25 per cent to accommodate the changes. Namma Metro’s airport corridor was earlier routed from Gottigere via Nagawara, but has now been revised to include KR Puram on the 38 km stretch.
There has been talk that the new alignment, which too touches Nagawara but takes the Hebbal and Kogilu Cross route and is 9kms longer, running via RK Hegda Nagar and Yelahanka , will make the journey to KIA more time consuming. Some complain that passengers will now have to ride on the Metro for 45 minutes from KR Puram to reach the airport when the earlier Nagawara-KIA route had promised a travel time of just 25 minutes.
But defending the decision, a BMRCL official said, “The route was changed due to the presence of a high-pressure petroleum pipe running from Bengaluru to Mangalore alongside it. Under the new alignment, we get fewer stations after Hebbal (six in all) to reach the airport ,which will allow the train to run at 80 kms per hour. This will make up for the longer route and cut travel time.”
But it is a more expensive change as the KR Puram-KIA Metro line will cost an estimated Rs 10,584.1 crore, as against the Gottigere- Nagawara - KIA line, which was pegged at Rs 5,900 crore.