Bangalore: Bangalore expects to join the ranks of New Delhi and Kolkata on Thursday as a city with its own Metro rail service, when a portion of the first phase of the network is inaugurated, albeit 19 months behind schedule.
A 7.5km stretch of the eastern line will be opened between Byappanahalli and M.G. Road, covering six stations.
Union urban affairs minister Kamal Nath, railway minister Dinesh Trivedi and Karnataka chief minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda are due to inaugurate the stretch in the morning. It will be opened to the public at 4pm.
Although a Metro service for Bangalore was mooted in the early 1980s, it was only after the launch of the Delhi metro service in 2002 that a viable financial model for a Bangalore metro was arrived at.
Delhi Metro was roped in as a consultant, and a proposal for a 34km stretch was finalized by 2006. A 9km extension was later appended to the plan.
The project is estimated to cost Rs 11,609 crore. The state government will pay 30% of the cost while the Union government will pay 25%. Another 30% will be taken as loan from the Japan Bank for International Co-operation (JBIC) at 1.3% interest; the remaining 15% will be raised from domestic financial institutions.
Maiden run: The Bangalore Metro makes a trial run on Wednesday. Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint
The eastern line was initially scheduled to be launched in March 2010. The deadline has since been deferred to December, April, September and now October.
The delay has significantly increased costs, said M.N. Sreehari, a transport and infrastructure consultant to the state government. “Every day’s delay is increasing the cost of the Metro project by Rs 65 lakh.”
A Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation (BMRC) engineer contested Sreehari’s claim.
“Since the beginning of civil works in April 2007, Bangalore Metro has taken four years and six months to open its first line. In comparison, the Delhi Metro service took four years and three months to open its first stretch measuring 8.3km,” the official said, requesting anonymity.
Problems in land acquisition and the nature of Bangalore’s terrain has contributed to the delay.
“Delhi’s terrain consists mostly of alluvial soil, which makes it easy to drill into, whereas Bangalore’s terrain is rocky,” the BMRC official said.
This reflects in project cost, too. While Delhi Metro cost around Rs.165 crore per km to build, Bangalore Metro is estimated to cost around Rs.270 crore per km.
Although Metro projects around the world do not generate significant profits, some, like the Delhi Metro, have managed to do so.
BMRC director N. Sivasailam said 30,000 to 40,000 passengers per day for now will help the project break even operationally.
Sivasilam said the service can handle around 80,000 passengers per day right now, but expects the number to fall in three-to-four months, once the novelty factor wanes.
With the opening of western and northern lines next year, BMRC expects the number of passengers to rise to one million a day. The Metro is eventually expected to serve 1.6 million a day in 2012.
Bangalore’s city bus service caters to an estimated 3.7 million passengers per day.
BMRC also expects to generate revenue by exploiting the land it holds commercially.
It floated a tender for a community life centre to be built on a public-private partnership basis on 10 acres adjacent to the Baiyappanahalli station. The project, expected to cost around Rs 600 crore, will include a convetion and exhibition centre on the lines of Delhi’s India Habitat Centre, a 3-star business hotel, office space, corporate guest houses, hypermart, multiplexes and retail space.
The Delhi Metro, whose construction started in October 1998, began operations on 24 December 2002 with a single line.
With the second phase of construction complete, the network now extends to 190km, with six operational lines (including an airport express line) and 142 stations. The third phase of expansion is likely to add another 108km of track, three new lines and 92 more stations and is expected to be built at a cost of Rs 30,000 crore.
The first line of the Mumbai metro, between Varsova in the west and Ghatkopar in the east via Andheri, is expected to be operational by the end of next year.
Anil Ambani-controlled Reliance Infrastructure Ltd has been constructing the 11km line, expected to cost Rs 2,356 crore, since 2008.
R-Infra has also bagged the contract for the 38km second line, between Charkop and Mankhurd, but work on this line is yet to begin.
A third line between Colaba in south Mumbai and Bandra in the west has also been proposed.
Aman Malik in New Delhi and Makarand Gadgil in Mumbai contributed to this story.