On October 20, 2011, South India’s first Metro train chugged out of MG Road station to Byappanahalli for a 6.7km run. Set to enter its 10th year of operations on Tuesday, Namma Metro network now traverses 42km and all trains have been converted from three coaches to six.
For a traffic-congested city like Bengaluru which has no mass rail transport system in place, Namma Metro was a godsend. Though it has slowly evolved from its ‘toytrain’ status to the city’s lifeline, experts say BMRCL has failed to expand its network over the years.
Though Metro rail systems in Hyderabad and Chennai started much later, they have now overtaken Bengaluru. While Hyderabad Metro, which started in 2017, operates over 69km, Chennai Metro that began in June 2015 has 45-km network. Delhi Metro, which started in 2002, now has 384-km network, with an average of 21 km added every year. Mumbai Metro started in 2014 and is also expanding at a faster pace than Namma Metro.
Namma Metro’s 72-km Phase 2 corridors are under construction, a majority of which is promised to be operational by 2022. “The Silk Board-KR Puram (18km) and KR Puram-Kempegowda International Airport (36km) sections are also in the tendering stage,” said a BMRCL official. The Centre is yet to approve the Outer Ring Road-KIA airport Metro corridor.
The Centre approved the 72-km Phase 2 in 2014 with a five-year deadline. “Phase 2 should have been completed by 2019, but not a single corridor is ready. BMRCL must focus on multi-modal integration, especially in places like Yeshwantpur,” said Sanjeev Dyamannavar, an activist.
BMRCL plans to open the first section of Yelachenahalli-Anjanapura (6.2km) by November. Work on 3.7km of the elevated Nagasandra-Bangalore International Exhibition Centre corridor started in 2017 and was slated to be over by mid-2019. The deadline was first extended to 2020 and later to 2022.
BMRCL blamed land acquisition issues and PILs for the delay. It has been facing challenges in acquiring land from individuals, NICE, forest department and defence ministry. “We’ve taken up several plantation drives, but people continue to approach courts against BMRCL for tree felling,” said an official.
An official said though Phase 2 was approved in 2014, work started only in 2015-16. Funding and land acquisition for the project were completed only recently. Generally, it takes five years to commission a line once the work starts, the official added.
While NICE dragged BMRCL to court over acquiring its land, there was also a delay in getting permission from the forest department to set up depots in Kadugodi and Anjanapura. Residents of Anchepalya village near BIEC stalled work for months demanding a new station. Later, BMRCL agreed to construct two new roads.
While a section of members of All Saints Church opposed land acquisition for Vellara station, there were protests against shifting the location of the Cantonment station to a playground at Bamboo Bazaar. Officials said several PILs were filed for cutting trees, so the work was halted especially in places like Tin Factory. Another PIL was filed to stop construction of the elevated Metro line near Jakkur aerodrome.
The financial crisis of IL&FS and Simplex Infra was also another worry. Though the Metro had a ridership of 4.5 lakh before the lockdown, it has now reduced to 50,000.