Had BMRCL met deadlines, 1.7 million could have benefited daily
In its annual report in 2013-14, the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) claimed that by 2017, around 1.7 million people in the city would rely on Namma Metro. The report stated that the completion of Phase II alone – with four extensions and two new lines – would benefit 14.8 lakh people. Cut to a decade later: Phase II is nowhere near completion. Multiple deadlines have been missed and the robust transport system that citizens were promised has yet to become a reality.
On October 21, 2011, BMRCL introduced metro services in the city for the first time between M.G. Road and Baiyappanahalli for a distance of 6.7 km. Bengaluru was the first city in South India to get a metro. However, BMRCL could not open the rest of the lines on schedule. Phase 1, covering a distance of 42 km including the Purple line (Baiyyappanahalli – Mysore Road) and the Green Line (Nagasandra – Yelachenahalli), became completely operational only mid-2017. Delays in land acquisition and change in plans to tunnel boring machines breaking down resulted in missed deadlines.
Land acquisition woes
Even while implementing the ongoing Phase II, BMRCL continues to face similar hurdles. Of the 72km metro network, only 13.5 km is operational. Inordinate delays in acquisition of NICE land at Electronic City, Tumakuru Road and other locations, and acquiring forest land at Kadugodi, etc. for years, and taking possession of defence land also considerably delayed the project.
The corporation has now set 2025 as the deadline to complete the rest of the lines.
“For the ongoing Phase II work, a total of 16 lakh sq m of land was identified. We faced several hurdles. Many property owners had approached the court. Acquisition of religious structures was a challenging task as there was a lot of local pressure. Even acquiring land belonging to government departments was a challenge. We acquired many properties only after the intervention of the chief secretary,” said a BMRLC official.
Changes in alignment
Changes in the plans especially construction of metro stations and alignments too impacted the phase II of Namma Metro projects. For example, in 2018 after bidders quoted exorbitant prices for the tunnel network, BMRCL decided to reduce the length of the UG line by 3 km on either side of the alignment. A year later, the revised plan was found to be unfeasible, and the original alignment came back into play.
After years of deliberation, public consultation and change in alignment, the State government approved the airport line from Silk Board to K.R. Puram via Hebbal. The Centre gave its nod of approval only in April 2021.
Failure on the part of the contractors implementing the project also resulted in delays.
On Bannerghatta Road, for instance, BMRCL was forced to end the contract given to Simplex Infrastructure Ltd. after it failed to implement the project.
Urban mobility expert Ashish Verma said that Namma Metro will remain a key element of a sustainable mobility plan for Bengaluru. “However, its 10 year journey throws up a lot of possibilities for improvement on all aspects. This includes better and integrated planning of corridor alignments and stations, timely execution and completion, speedy network expansion, minimising ecological impacts (lakes, trees etc.) at the planning stage itself, and increasing the supply of services (frequency, train capacity, reliability etc.).”
He pointed out that BMRCL needs to incorporate multi-modal integration in station planning and design more efficiently and integrate passenger information and ticketing. “Improving on all these aspects will ensure that Namma Metro contributes substantially to improving quality of life,” he added.