Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated, with the usual fanfare and photo-ops, a short section of the Bengaluru Metro’s Purple Line from Whitefield to KR Puram on Saturday, 25 March — despite the fact that about 20 percent of the work on the key line is yet to be completed.
With the opening of the Whitefield-KR Puram section, the Purple Line has become the Namma Metro network’s longest operational corridor. Bengaluru also became the city with India’s second-longest metro network (69.66 km), after Delhi.
The missing links
The 15.81 km Baiyappanahalli-Whitefield stretch is an extension of the Purple Line, which currently runs 25.6 km from Kengeri to Baiyappanahalli. But the actual stretch inaugurated on Saturday was the 13.71 km Reach-1 extension from Whitefield (Kadugodi) to Krishnarajapuram.
However, the key metro network connection between Baiyappanahalli and KR Puram (2.1 km), as well as the section between Kengeri and Challaghatta (1.3 km), are still not complete.
Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) officials confidently asserted to South First that the two missing connections would be inaugurated in the next two to three months — even though it took the corporation, a joint venture between the governments of India and Karnataka, 75 months to connect Whitefield to KR Puram.
Little wonder that activists are fuming at the gaps in the network.
“The stretch they inaugurated is incomplete. There are missing links between Baiyappanahalli and KR Puram, which significantly reduces the utility of this line,” Rajkumar Dugar, founder and Convenor of Citizens for Citizens (C4C) told South First.
“The prime minister’s visit seems to be the reason for the hurried inauguration, much like the Bengaluru-Mysuru Expressway,” he added.
“With regard to BMRCL, there appears to be no transparency. The stretch was approved in February 2014, and it took two years for BMRCL to float the tender in December 2016 and begin operations, albeit partially. That means it has taken them more than 75 months to ‘finish’ this incomplete project,” Dugar noted.
“They could have waited and opened the entire stretch all together. I’m sure the prime minister would have been the same three months later,” Dugar added.
At present, it takes more than two hours to get from Whitefield to Kengeri by road. The BMRCL has promised that the metro would cover the same distance in only 72 minutes.
The missing link from Byappanahalli to KR Puram, however, prevented BMRCL from keeping its commitment.
According to a BMRCL report, the train’s frequency has now been fixed at 12 minutes and the corporation is hoping that the extension will result in incremental ridership of 1.5 lakh, with the number rising to three lakh or more when the 2.1-km line from KR Puram to Baiyappanahalli opens in the next three months.
Thanks to the missing section, commuters are dependent on Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) feeder buses and the line’s ridership — between Whitefield to KR Puram — on its first full day of operations, Sunday, was a paltry 26,743 ridership, which fell to 21,261 on Monday.
The question that activists are asking is: Why could not the BMRCL have waited for just three more months given that the project has already taken 75 months and is some 24 months past its initial completion date.
Will complete work by June: BMRCL
A BMRCL official, requesting anonymity, told South First: “By the end of June, a vital section between KR Puram and Baiyappanahalli will be completed. The line’s comprehensive project report, which had a 2020 completion date, was approved in February 2014.
“Although we have missed many deadlines, we are confident that we will meet this one since we have made all the required preparations for commuters, including feeder buses that run 195 trips daily from Byappanahalli to the KR Puram metro station.”
But a BMTC report claims that a total of only 160 trips were operated and commuting 2,919 commuters on Sunday.
Also, it stated that, during morning rush hour, commuters depended more on railway lines because the journey from Whitefield to KR Puram only takes eight minutes by train, including stops at Hoodi and Goods-Shed, as compared to 25 minutes by metro.
The BMRCL may, in fact, have trouble reaching its target ridership on this line if the Railways raises the frequency of its trains and completes the quadruple-track railway (also known as a four-track railway).