Only 2,098 people took trains to KIA between January and April
Activists want railway officials to revisit train schedule prior to resuming services
South Western Railway (SWR), which is buying time before resuming running of trains to Kempegowda International Airport (KIA), has claimed that the service received very poor patronage from the launch in January till April when the COVID-19 lockdown was imposed.
On an average, just around 20 people purchased tickets every day to travel between Bengaluru and the halt station at KIA. SWR had introduced trains to KIA on January 4, 2021. Up to April 20, only around 2,098 tickets were sold, earning revenue of ₹20,830.
In January, 720 passengers (to and from) travelled in the train, but ridership dropped to 203 in February. Poor patronage in February was due to the suspension of services for over 15 days to carry out work related to Sir M. Visvesvaraya Terminal at Baiyappanahalli.
In March, only 629 people used the service while in April the number was 555.
Officials say there were instances of trains running empty. SWR decided to suspend the service in the last week of April.
With Unlock 3.0 well under way, rail activists have demanded that SWR review train schedules in consultation with the Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL), the operator of KIA.
Rajkumar Dugar of Citizens for Citizens (C4C) said, “Prior to resuming services to Kempegowda International Airport, SWR must revisit train schedules in terms of timings and routes. For instance, there is a demand to run trains from Whitefield and Heelalige. Officials should explore the possibility of running trains from multiple locations,” he said.
He also pointed out that people are wary of taking public transport due to the COVID-19 pandemic and that passenger footfall at KIA, too, has come down. “But it is bound to increase in the coming days. Even if 5% of the people travelling to KIA start using the trains, the services will be viable for SWR.”
The services will also benefit people working at KIA.
“Over 25,000 people commute to the airport campus every day for work. Scheduling train timings to match their work shifts will help them,” said rail activist Sanjeev Dyamannavar.
He, too, urged SWR to increase frequency of services and reduce the commute time. “Integration with other modes of services, such as metro and city buses, is also crucial,” he added.
Mr. Dyamannavar cited the example of early morning trains to KIA. “Services start around 5 a.m., but at that time, neither metro services nor city bus services were available for people to reach Majestic. These things need to be considered while resuming services.”
Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) of Bengaluru Ashok Kumar Verma said, “We are resuming services in a graded manner. Due to some restrictions in Bengaluru Rural district, some train services, which include those to the airport, could not be resumed. We will take a call on this in the coming days.”