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Saturday, September 3, 2016

10 intra-Bengaluru trains that could hugely decongest road traffic, if introduced [ especially #8,#9 & #10 ]

Okay, so this one's a serious post, after quite some time. And this is about something that has been on my mind since years - ever since the Garden City of Bangalore, where one could go from anywhere to anywhere in not more than 30 minutes, became the IT-City Bengaluru, where no one can go from anywhere to anywhere in less than 30 minutes. Growing up in this home city, even as I've seen the Metro rail from start to the state it is in right now, I've always wondered why this was never done. But I never gave too much thought to it, until today, when I read this article by Srikanth Ramakrishnan for Swarajya.

My friend Tejaswi had also written an article on this a while ago.

Image via
When I read that, I really felt like I should write this out. Over the years, we've seen Bengaluru just submerged in congestion, traffic and chaos. What's the reason? The IT Boom? Population explosion due to massive immigration? Unprecedented real-estate growth thereby? Apathy by the administration? Fundamentally ridiculous urban planning? All of the above?

Even as clueless successive governments have been looking at flyovers, adding more buses, looking at metro rail etc etc without managing to significantly solve the problem, hardly a day goes when we don't hear of perennial traffic at Silk Board, Jayadeva Flyover, Electronic City, KR Puram Bridge, Whitefield, Marathalli, Bellandur, Airport Road, Yeshwanthpur, Malleshwaram and so on. In other words, there is hardly a big area in Bengaluru that is bereft of traffic congestion.

It pains one to see that people are living away from their families these days, in areas close to their offices because that's just how unbearable the commute in traffic is.

We need to address this problem alright, but it is more important to address it fast. REAL FAST. The more slowly this is acted upon, it only gets worse, because by the time the problem is really solved, the sharp rise in population by then would itself render the solution close to useless. A classic example is the Namma Metro Purple line that has been opened. The line was planned for the late 90s or early 2000s, when the city limits of Bengaluru did not cross Nayandahalli and Baiyappannahalli. But thanks to its painfully slow execution, by the time it was up and running, the city had expanded far beyond these 2 stations, leaving residents asking for a lot more than this stretch. The same thing will happen with the Nagasandra - Puttenahalli stretch - people have already occupied areas like Nelamangala and Jakkasandra.

So what really is a practical solution to Bengaluru's seemingly unceasing congestion on the roads?
More use of public transport? Carpooling? Ola Share / Shuttle? Bicycles? Sure, sounds good on paper. But is it practical? No, you can't expect every citizen to follow all these things. We don't live in an ideal world.

More metro rail lines? Sure! I stay in Rajarajeshwarinagar and if I've to get to MG Road or Indiranagar, I don't think twice at all. I head to the Mysuru Road metro station and go tension-free on the Purple metro line. All lovely. But more metro lines only mean that if we start in 2016, we're only going to have them by 2026 - this effectively means a repetition of the Purple Line error. Considering the sheer pace at which the city is expanding, it wouldn't be the best solution.

Although not flawless, the most practical as well as cost-saving solution at this point is, yes, you've probably heard this a million times by now - Suburban Rail. The thing with metro lines or light rails is - you again have to invest in a LOT of things - acquiring land, felling trees, digging underground, constructing the rail line, procuring coaches etc etc etc.

But with suburban rail, these are the advantages:
1. You already have the rail lines.
2. No worries about land acquisition.
3. No time wastage with regard to construction.
4. No felling trees / no digging underground.
5. No inconvenience whatsoever to existing commuters.

The ONLY and ONLY thing needed is - additional passenger trains. Compare the cost and time of introducing just a few additional trains with all that I listed above.
The choice can't be more obvious!

Sure, this means increase in rail traffic and more waiting at railway crossings, but this can definitely be and should definitely be traded off for the benefit it is going to bring to tens of thousands of commuters every single day! - and to the city itself thereby.

Now, before anyone nitpicks, let me tell you that this list is an inference based on just common sense and a cursory look at Bengaluru's railway lines map. This is not data-based: I do not, at this point, have any real data of how many users this could benefit and how much traffic could be reduced - there is no math, there are no concrete figures.

I'm just inferring based on what I've observed, so there is every possibility that I could be off the mark at some places. In other words, it's a bit like what most Indian journalists do these days - write narratives as opposed to facts :P

Anyway, here are 10 routes that I've come up with. Now, if trains are introduced on these routes, even as little as twice or thrice a day ( especially during peak hours ), it will go a long way in decongesting Namma Bengaluru. At least some of these routes can be introduced, given how underutilized some of the existing stations are.

1. Bidadi - Nelamangala ( via KSR Bengaluru, Malleshwaram, Yeshwanthpur )

This will benefit a large number of people residing on Mysore Road as well as those near Peenya. This will majorly connect 2 highways - Mysore Road and Tumkur Road.

Being in RR Nagar, I always cringe at the very thought of getting to Malleshwaram or Yeshwanthpur whenever I have to. There is absolutely no way I can get to these places in less than an hour.
I will always get caught at the Tumkur Road signal for at least 45 minutes to 1 and a half hours. You won't believe, I had to miss my close friend's wedding once, because of traffic at this signal!

Let's analyze the kind of people who would be benefited if this train is introduced, through these existing stations:

a. Bidadi: Factory workers, Innovative Film City visitors, Nithyananda devotees
b. Hejjala: Wonder La visitors.
c. Kengeri: All the residents of Kengeri Satellite Town, Big Banyan Tree tourists
d. Gnanabharathi: RV College students & staff, Global Village Tech Park employees, Bengaluru University students & staff, RR Nagar & Nagarbhavi residents. A HUGE number, this will be an important station
e. Nayandahalli: RR Nagar, Nagarbhavi, Chandra Layout residents ( makeshift stations - just 2 platforms constructed at RPC layout + ETA mall would be even better for residents there ), will benefit students & staff of PESIT and many other neighboring colleges - another KEY station.
f. KSR Bengaluru: Who will not be benefited by coming here? :)
g. Malleswaram: Again, an area that a LOT of people will want to go to. ( Just imagine, from Gnanabharathi, if I catch this train, I should reach Malleshwaram in as early as half an hour! )
h. Yeshwanthpur: Again, a high-importance area..a lot of people will be benefited by this.
i. Nelamangala: A lot of colleges and industries are in this area, will be greatly beneficial for students and workers alike.

Even just 3 trains - once in the morning peak hour, once in the afternoon and once in the evening peak hour would be very helpful in reducing traffic on Tumkur Road as well as on NICE road.

2. Bidadi - Whitefield ( via KSR Bengaluru, Cantonment, Baiyappanahalli, KR Puram )

This will greatly help all those on Mysore Road get to the Eastern limits of Bengaluru.
The very thought of going to Whitefield from RR Nagar makes me want to faint - I've to either go via Mysore Road, MG Road etc, which once took me 3 and a half hours! Or via Hebbal flyover, which might take over 2 hours, if I'm lucky. Either way, I will definitely incur the wrath of Tin Factory!

A train on this line, from Bidadi to Whitefield via KSR Bengaluru, Cantonment and KR Puram, the route taken by Mysuru - Chennai trains will greatly, greatly benefit a large number of people. This is much, much needed.

3. Nelamangala- Whitefield ( via Yeshwanthpur, KSR Bengaluru)

This will connect North-West Bengaluru to East Bengaluru
If one wants to travel from Nelamangala to Whitefield now in the least possible time, it's rather painful - somehow travel up to Nagasandra, take the green line from there up to Mantri Mall, take a bus from there to Majestic, take the Purple Line to Baiyappanahalli and a bus from there. Phew! Painful, indeed.

A direct train along this route will do wonders.

4. Nelamangala - Heelalige ( via Yeshwanthpur, Lottegollahalli, Hebbal, Banaswadi, Bellandur )

Apart from Whitefield, which are the areas in Bengaluru which are super congested now? Marathalli and Electronic City.

This route will be a direct connection between North-West and South-East. Just imagine the number of employees, especially IT employees that could be benefited by this route - this should massively reduce traffic on Old Airport Road. A number of people wanting to get to Marathalli from the north-west side and vice-versa will be benefited by this.

5. Bidadi - Heelalige ( via KSR Bengaluru, Baiyappanahalli, Bellandur )

Similar to the previous one - this will be a direct route linking areas near Mysore Road to Bellandur and Electronic City - this will massively reduce dependence on the NICE road as well as the Old Airport Road. A huge boost!

6. Bidadi - Banaswadi ( via KSR Bengaluru, Yeshwanthpur, Hebbal )

Should easily help folks wanting to get to Hebbal from Mysore Road side and vice-versa. Will massively reduce dependence on the ring road.

7. Whitefield - Heelalige ( via Baiyappanahalli, Bellandur )

A direct route linking 2 major IT hubs of the city - will be a great boon for the IT population.


As if there isn't enough traffic in Bengaluru City already, another worst nightmare of any Bengaluru resident is traveling to the airport. In most cases, flying from Bengaluru to another city / country takes lesser time than commuting from one's house to the airport - that's how ridiculously far it is.

Taking the BIAL bus is possible only when one has oodles of time at his disposal. Otherwise, one has to almost always rely on cabs, which can take anywhere between 1 and a half to 2 hours to get to the airport, depending on where one is staying

So what's the solution for a quick commute to the airport? AGAIN, it is suburban rail - we already have a beautiful rail route that goes by the airport. Why not leverage this?

Every major city in the world has rail connectivity to its airport. Bengaluru, despite being a world class city shamefully does not have direct train link to the airport - if this isn't a real shame for the city, nothing else is!

Apart from trains, the only thing extra needed in this case would be a small railway station at the airport. That is still fine. After all, how much would it possibly take to construct 2 platforms, a ticket counter and 2 station boards? The ideal location to construct this station would be this:

The KIAL railway station could be built on either of the 2 locations marked by the red lines.
These trains, while primarily serving the purpose of airport commute, can be extended up to Nandi Halt - if done, this would also serve the purpose of carrying all tourists to Nandi Hills as well. When you're doing so much, you might as well extend the train up to Nandi Halt, right? It is hardly going to take 10 minutes extra, commute-time wise.

It would be great if these trains are operational round the clock, with many international flights departing in the middle of the night. Imagine zooming to the airport in less than an hour, sans any traffic whatsoever! An absolute dream it would be, wouldn't it?

8. Bidadi - Nandi Halt ( via KSR Bengaluru, Yeshwantpur, Lottegollahalli, Yelahanka, KIAL )

The whole of Mysore Road can easily commute to the airport and Nandi Hills if this route is started. Imagine going to these areas in a matter of an hour, without worrying any bit about traffic!

There are 2 ways of implementing this connection - 1 through Yeshwanthpur ( recommended ) and the other through Baiyyappanahalli ( because this station will / should already facilitate the connection from Heelalige, check below )

9. Heelalige - Nandi Halt ( via Baiyappanahalli, Channasandra, Yelahanka, KIAL )

With a majority of the IT population residing in the Electronic City area and with the IT population more likely to take flights than the average Bengalurean, this link would prove to be extremely extremely effective.

10. Whitefield - Nandi Halt ( via KR Puram, Yelahanka, KIAL )

Again, this is as crucial as the Electronic City - Airport link. These 2 routes alone should be enough to get a lot of cars off the airport road highway.

So yes, that's that - In my opinion, if these trains are introduced in reasonable frequency, this should get a lot of people away from the road and go closer to making Bengaluru the free, decongested paradise that it once used to be. Please think about it, Shri Suresh Prabhu, Shri Siddaramaiah and the Railway Ministry officials concerned.

Please feel free to correct me in places where I've gone wrong or if I've said anything that is impractical, or even to suggest any other route that you think should be leveraged.

The other solution we could look at - taking a leaf out of Nitin Gadkari's book. No matter how bizarre this sounds, why not look into the possibility of having air-conditioned boats plying on the city's drains? That'll probably be my next post. Sure, laugh your stomach out at this idea, but remember - Bengaluru's traffic will have the last laugh if nothing is done :)

Thanks and regards,


Sathya prakash said...

Excellent list of routes, with right political will, this can start in Less than a year.

Guru Prasad said...

Sir , Have been following the idea of Suburban rail since it was proposed by Jagadish shettar in state budget , and have utilized the Suburban Rail in Hyderabad and Chennai . there is lack of Political will in Both State and Central Governments , MPs like ananth Kumar give back to back press release but no real ground work happening . Since Suburban Rail is a loss making trains which doesn't return even the investment done to the run train , Railway or SWR won't even think of running suburban trains .

Pavan said...

If profit is the criteria they look at let them start with the existing trains...which are loss making. They won't because of politics...which Karnataka is lacking. If Karnataka polis (politicians) had that will we would have seen these rants and blogs on bengaluru traffic.