Bangalore: A five-year plan to build a high-speed railway connecting Bangalore’s airport to the city centre may be discarded in favour of extending a new phase of the city railway to the airport.

At a meeting chaired by Karnataka chief secretary S.V. Ranganath in June, the Bangalore Metro Rail Corp. Ltd was asked to prepare a note on extending the second phase of the metro railway line to the airport. Mint has reviewed a copy of the minutes of the meeting.

The committee noted that circumstances had changed since the airport link project was mooted in 2007, with preparations for the second phase of the metro already in place, which offered another option to provide rail connectivity to the airport, it said.

Under the new plan, the line connecting the Indian Institute of Management in south Bangalore and Nagavara in north Bangalore will be extended to the airport. The current proposal for the second phase is a 72km railway line with 61 stations. The project, costing 26,405 crore, is expected to take five-six years after the Union government approves it.

“There was some pressure from certain quarters to explore the metro option instead of the high-speed link," said an official in the Karnataka urban development department, declining to be named.

Bangalore Metro officials did not respond to phone calls or an email questionnaire.

The high-speed link was planned as a 33km line between MG Road in central Bangalore to the international airport at Devanahalli outside the city limits. To be built at a cost of 5,767 crore, trains on the line would run at a maximum speed of 160km per hour and cover the distance in 25 minutes.

While the project has been stalled, the Karnataka government did issue a request for qualification in 2010, inviting companies to outline their qualifications for executing the project.

Five groups responded at the time—Reliance Infrastructure Ltd and CSR Nanjing Puzhen Rolling Stock Co. Ltd; L&T Transco Pvt. Ltd; Italian Thai Development Public Co. Ltd and Soma Enterprise Ltd; Pioneer Infratech Pvt. Ltd and Siemens Project Ventures GmbH; and Lanco Infratech Ltd and OHL Concessionaires SL. There has been no progress on the project since then.

The high-speed link was criticized as it proposed building only four stations over the 33km line to enable high speeds. This found little political support as the use of these lines would have been limited to airport travellers.

At the inauguration of the Bangalore Metro service last year, Bangalore South member of Parliament and former Union minister Ananth Kumar urged the administration to make the airport link part of the Metro project. This, he argued, would be more beneficial to the public than a single-purpose airport link.

M.N. Sreehari, chief executive of Consortia of Infrastructure Engineers, a consultant to the Karnataka government, said the HSRL project would have been a huge waste of money for the government. “The costs projected by the government would have meant that the HSRL would turn out to be more expensive than the airport itself," he said.

There were other impediments to implementing the project. The proposed line passed close to an air force training base. The government considered taking half of the alignment underground until the training base but this would have raised the cost.

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