Land acquisition delays put Namma Metro plan off the marks

Lakhs of commuters drive through the city each day, passing through nerve centers like Indiranagar, Koramangala and HAL to get to Whitefield, Electronics City and Sarjapur – the IT hubs. Bumper-to-bumper traffic and pollution are an everyday affair in these areas, rendering the Namma Metro, completely irrelevant. It’s time for BMRCL, hampered as it is by land acquisition delays, to get its act together.

The IT boom brought with it many good things for Bengaluru, taking its peace and calm in return. The erstwhile pensioner’s paradise transformed into a veritable nightmare of bumper-to-bumper traffic, pollution and concrete. The Namma Metro arrived like a boon, raising the hope of many a weary citizen. Sadly for us, the much-awaited network of trains has done nothing to ease our traffic woes, functioning as it does in areas that have little or no connection to the city’s choke points.

Baiyappanahalli to Whitefield
Hundreds of thousands of vehicles go through the city centre to arrive at these neighbourhoods, with no help from Metro’s Phase 2, which has been peppered with delays concerning land acquisition. Surajit, a Whitefield resident, says, “I have lived here for seven years and haven’t used the Metro once. The existing links are of no use to me. It doesn’t make sense for me to drive to one spot and then board the Metro, it’s easier to drive straight to M.G. Road or Indiranagar!

Bommasandra to RV Road line
This line should improve last-mile connectivity to those who live or work in Electronics city. Land acquisition has marred the proceedings once more, however, said Srinidhi, an expert from Praja. “Land for the RV road station is still to be finalized, as the current owner has filed a PIL against the cutting of trees. The delay in the RV road station has slowed the progress of Phase 1, as it falls on the Green Line.”

Indiranagar to Koramangala
Koramangala and Indiranagar are high-density areas and the Inner Ring Road that connects them is chaotic during the rush-hours.  Those traveling to and from Koramangala still have to drive to the nearest station, either in Indiranagar or M.G. Road, braving the traffic, which, in essence, brings them back to square 1. And relief isn’t’ on the horizon either. According to BMRCL’s Chief PRO Vasanth Rao, “The department has chosen to connect the N-S and E-W corridor first, after which they will connect areas like Koramangala, forming a spoke hub design.

According to Srinidhi, the expert from Praja, “BMRCL should coordinate with the Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board, which is responsible for buying and selling land,” said Srinidhi. He added that BMRCL is severely short staffed with its MD, Pradeep Singh Kharola, handling multiple charges. “They don’t even have the manpower to coordinate with KIADB,” he explained.

Major traffic hubs have been ignored: Experts
The BMRCL’s pet project, Namma Metro has been plagued with delays and hassles all the way. Although  Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, laid the foundation stone for it over a decade ago, in June 2006,  it is still not complete, with delays dogging it at every step and pushing up the project cost.

Additionally, it has failed to touch the main traffic hubs of the city, defeating its purpose of easing traffic on Bengaluru’s roads.   Mr R. K. Misra, founder director, Center for SMART Cities, believes the planning has been faulty right from the start.

“The Metro was not planned properly. The plan totally ignored areas like Whitefield, Electronic city, ITPL and Manyata Tech Park,  which have seen a rise in traffic in recent times. Even the international airport is not connected. The Metro has missed the basic point of its conception which is to help people commute to work and back,” he regrets.

Echoing his views,  civic evangelist V. Ravichander too deplores that the BMRCL has ignored major traffic hubs like the Majestic, Whitefield and Marathahalli. “Whitefield should have been connected in phase 1. Instead they chose to connect Byapanahalli and MG Road and sat on the line for six years,” he notes disparagingly.

In his view the BMRCL sees itself as an engineering company rather than as a complete provider of mobility solutions. “There is still no inter-modal convenience using feeder services and no last-mile connectivity. Also there are no citizen conveniences such as toilets at the stations. These conveniences need to be integrated with the Metro,” he emphasises.

Mr Misra  believes the Metro should have been planned like those around the world. “Toilets, a food court, parking space and bus bays should be mandatory and the authorities need to look into public conveniences as well,” he says.

Guest Column: Don’t pick the lowest bidder, says Ashwin Mahesh
Namma Metro is being built as a track rather than a complete mobility option. It should be built for a hundred years. People in 2050 should be able to use it and they too should pay for the Metro, which should have a long term loan option rather than the short term loans it is being currently built on.

It’s also wrong that Namma Metro is owned by the state and Union governments, rather than the city itself.  Only  if Bengaluru owns it will a sense of ownership creep in. Also, the Metro should be allowed to run the feeder services to avoid confusion.

Most importantly,  an agency such as the UMTA is needed to run the Metro, BMTC and various other services involved in the project. Look at London. It has an excellent transport service because all modes of transport come under one agency, which can co-ordinate and solve the niggles.

Another important point is that the Metro should take care of footpaths. If there is no proper footpath and a person wants to walk to a Metro station then what does he or she do? That is the reason I have insisted that TenderSure should not be confined to a few roads, but extended to at least a 1000 roads.

Moreover, the way the government contracts work is wrong. Unlike the standard procedure, which chooses the lowest bid, if one wants top class technology then one must be willing to pay top dollar for it.

The problem is that the government is trying to build the Metro as cheaply as possible. Instead the cost should be increased and spread over a few decades to help the Metro realise its true potential.

Credits Deccan Chronicle

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