The promise of Namma Metro projects carried its worth in gold for Bengaluru’s residents after they felt beaten down by the awfully jammed roads in the city.
But, far from making life easier, it’s been a harrowing experience for commuters and residents in areas like BTM Layout, Bannerghatta Road, Kanakapura Road, Mysuru Road, and Whitefield Road as poor execution of the ongoing metro work has made life hell.
In many of these stretches, Bengaluru Metro Rail authorities have taken up work on the median without even widening either side of the road.
While Bengaluru’s residents realise that the metro is much-needed infrastructure for ensuring urban mobility for India’s most rapidly growing metropolis, the slow progress has been a major disappointment.
With the completion of phase one last year, the city’s metro network currently consists of two colour-coded lines, which covers just a length of 42.3 km serving 41 stations – despite construction work beginning as early as 2007.
Other cities like Hyderabad, which began building their metro network much later, have caught up. Mumbai, for instance, is building 150 km of metro projects currently. And in contrast, Namma Metro is yet to provide connectivity to the city's important residential tech hubs of Outer Ring Road, Electronic City, and Whitefield.
The full commissioning of phase 1 was delayed by as many as three years, as poor planning meant just five tunnel boring machines were used for drilling tunnels along the underground stretch spanning 8 km. While tunnels were burrowed at snail’s pace, one TBM machine was stuck 60 foot below for months as its blades were damaged. This threw the entire project schedule off and the phase finally opened in 2017, a good four years behind schedule.
Now, the phase two of Namma Metro involves the extension of the two phase-one corridors as well as the construction of two new lines and will add another 72 km.
The Siddaramiah government had claimed that the phase two project would be wrapped up by 2020. But now, it appears that Bangaloreans will have to wait for five years before the entire phase two of Namma Metro becomes operational – not before 2023.
The most disappointing news for residents may have been the zero progress achieved in the proposed 19.45 km KR Puram-Silk Board line along the Outer Ring Road. The ORR is among the densest corridors in the IT capital of India. It houses the biggies like Intel, AOL, and Cisco.
According to a report by international property consultants Cushman & Wakefield, the ORR submarket alone accounted for a whopping 54 per cent of the 12.7 million square feet net absorption of office space during the year 2017, distantly followed by the peripheral east submarket comprising Whitefield.
Now, the bankrupt Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services has emerged as the lowest bidder for the KR Puram-Silk Board corridor in all three packages. However, the BMRCL is yet to take a decision. The plan to extend the metro line to Kempegowda International Airport is also yet to be finalised.
While the BMRCL had earlier set 2020 as the deadline for the 72-km project, it recently extended it to 2023. But going by its earlier track record, it won’t be a surprise if the deadline is extended till 2025. One can only hope that Bengaluru’s residents can dig into their wells of patience and keep their calm – yes, even amidst all the maddening traffic around them.