Bengaluru Metro’s Phase 1 to roll out to public on Sunday
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Bengaluru: Over a decade of investments worth Rs14,200 crore and many deferred deadlines later, Bengaluru Metro’s Phase I operations will finally be inaugurated on Saturday and will open for the public on Sunday.
The Phase I operations, which will provide 42.3 km of intra-city connectivity, will be inaugurated by Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah.
In the interim, the state has seen five different chief ministers and two stints of President’s Rule.
The metro or ‘Namma Metro’ launch comes at a time when Bengaluru’s streets continue to clog up with private cars, cabs and two-wheelers, with unplanned roads holding the city’s public mobility systems and expenditure to ransom.
“The government has to realise that it is a mobility solution and not an engineering project,” said V.Ravichandar, urban infrastructure expert and member of the Bangalore Agenda Task Force (BATF).
Other urban experts echo the sentiment as every delay adds more people and vehicles to the roads of Bengaluru.
Ashwin Mahesh, an urban infrastructure consultant, said by the time Bengaluru completes the metro, the city’s population would have swelled up by another 1-1.5 million people, upsetting all estimates.
The city which has around 65 lakh vehicles adds around 1,500 new ones each day, according to data from the state transport department.
Bengaluru Metro Rail Corp. Ltd (BMRCL) claims that Phase I—post completion—will see the number of riders swell to around 5 lakh a day, from around 2 lakh currently.
At best that accounts for around 5% of Bengaluru’s near 10 million population.
Phase II—which extends the existing lines to 72 km by 2020—will take the total project cost to over Rs40,000 crore and is likely to cater to 15% of the population, according to BMRCL officials.
About 55% of the Phase II costs will be funded by the state and central governments and the remaining capital will be raised through borrowings—stretching the public infrastructure funds backwards to accommodate the metro and its ambitious plans.
Public buses and sub-urban rail network are feeling the pinch. According to Praja RAAG, an advocacy group for local issues, Bengaluru’s population grew by 35% from 1991-2001 and about 47% from 2001-2011.
Sanjeev Dyamnavar of Praja RAAG said that though a memorandum of understanding has been signed and Rs345 crore allocated towards sub-urban rail connectivity by the state cabinet, nothing much seems to be moving on ground. The main contention has been reconsidering the cost sharing from 80:20 with the state, footing the larger share, to 50:50.
He said around 180 km of the 400-km existing tracks are in use—albeit below potential—but with a lot of scope for improvement, at a fraction of the cost of metro, that would regulate entry of vehicles into the city from surrounding regions.
Bengaluru has a floating population of around 20 lakh.
Ravichandar said the metro can succeed only if other mobility solutions compliment the service. “Feeder services and last mile services are key to provide a comprehensive public mobility solution,” he said.
But Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corp. (BMTC) that runs intra-city bus operations has just over 6,000 buses as against the estimated demand of around 14,000, which puts stress on existing assets and pushes people towards private modes of transport and use of app-based aggregators.
In the 2017-18 budget, Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah announced the purchasing of 3,000 new buses (1,500 on lease) and introduced 150 pilot buses on roads, but the total allocation for the transport department (including buses and schemes for other state transport corporations) stands at a paltry Rs2,354 crore for the current fiscal year.
Urban experts said that metro alone cannot resolve any of the mobility problems Bengaluru faces.