Bengaluru: The Commissioner of Metro Rail Safety (CMRS) on Wednesday will start the inspection of the remaining 12-kilometre stretch from Sampige Road to Yelachanahalli Road on the green line of the Phase 1 of the Bengaluru metro rail service.
The CMRS will undertake its mandatory inspection of all aspects of operations in the line, including signalling, traction and safety, before opening the much-awaited Phase 1 for the public. The three other reaches of Phase 1 have been operational for well over a year now.
The remaining line will connect the southern part of the city. However, it has been delayed by over two years, resulting in the total cost of the project to double since 2006.
When completed, the project will cost the tax payer over Rs14,200 crore in total or over Rs330 crore per kilometre as against the initial proposed cost of Rs6,395 crore in 2006.
Despite the costs, the possibility of the nearly 43 km line in the Phase 1 launch comes as a relief to the city that has choked owing to its unplanned and inadequate public transport infrastructure, even though this phase will cater to only around 3-5 lakh people of the city’s 10 million population.
“The inspection will last for about 3-4 days. Once that (inspection) is complete, we will see if any changes or deficiency will come out and rectify accordingly,” said Vasant Rao, general manager (finance) and spokesperson for the Bengaluru Metro Rail Corp. Ltd (BMRCL).
The first phase of the metro—or Namma Metro—has been in the making since 2006 but delays in land acquisition and inability to complete the underground stretches has resulted in steep escalation of total costs.
Rao said the delays were on account of tunnel boring machines (TBM) not being able to break through in the nearly 9 km of underground stretches.
But the delays have cost the city not just money but dashed hopes of the service decongesting city roads. Bengaluru, measuring over 800 square km, has over 65 lakh vehicles with nearly 1,500 new ones being added daily, according to the state transport department.
The BMRCL has commenced work on Phase 2 which will take the total area covered by metro to around 72 km, but will still cater to only around 15% of the city’s 10 million population, according to top BMRCL officials.
Urban experts like Ashwin Mahesh said the city would add another 1.5 million people before 2020, the deadline for Phase 2, which is being built at a cost of over Rs26,400 crore. Mahesh and other urban experts agree that though the metro was conceived to decongest the city, inadequate planning of connectivity serving in two straight lines cutting across the almost circular geography of Bengaluru serves very few people.
Densely populated and highly congested areas like outer ring road, electronic city, BTM layout and Whitefield, among others, have been left out in Phase 1, but will be served under successive phases of the metro.
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Government authorities are mulling over other alternative transportation like personal rapid transit system or pod taxis for short distances, leaving more viable and volume-driven options like buses and sub-urban rail services begging for more funds or even importance.
Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah-led Congress government seemed more eager to construct a 6.7-km steel flyover from Chalukya circle to Hebbal within 18 months, only to be thwarted by the citizens over the felling of over 800 fully grown trees and other alleged financial irregularities, forcing the government to withdraw from the proposed project.
“It is rather unfortunate that the government has not yet started sub-urban rail services. It should have come up before metro,” M.N.Sreehari, urban traffic expert and former advisor to Karnataka government, said.
Also, around 400 km of existing railway tracks around the city has largely been unexploited. Sreehari said the metro will bring down traffic by around 15% when all phases are completed, adding that by that time, the volume of vehicles would have also ballooned.
Shreehari highlighted the need for Bengaluru to have multi-modal transport solutions like mono-rail, sub-urban rail, bus rapid transit system and the metro to serve different stretches and parts of the city for it to feel any reduction in traffic.