Why shifting Bengaluru Cantonment Metro Station 1.5km from the railway station would mean disaster

By Rajkumar Dugar|3rd Nov 2017
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Proper integration of Namma Metro and Railways will ensure that people across Bengaluru use the metro to get to the railway station, reducing traffic congestion and pollution.

One of the biggest challenges faced by the over 10 million Bengaluru residents is on account of the 7 million vehicles on the roads. Traffic congestion leads to many problems: man hours lost, pollution and health issues, higher cost of travel and reduced efficiencies. Numerous steps are possible to reduce traffic congestion and the problems associated with it. The best and most practical solution is to drastically improve public transport (PT) so that the number of private vehicles on the roads reduces.

Namma Metro, the suburban trains and BMTC are the best bets, with the corollary that they need to be tightly integrated at maximum number of points to increase efficiency and footfalls, in addition to other benefits.

Bengaluru is staring at an alarming situation, and there is a need to take urgent and comprehensive steps immediately.

In this context, Phase 1 of Namma Metro has seen lost opportunities. For example, the integration of the City and Yesvantpur could have been better.

However, Phase 2, which is about to start, got a big jolt when BMRCL suddenly decided to shift the proposed Cantonment Metro Station from just opposite the main entrance to a playground about 1.5km away by road. This is a highly retrograde step, totally against the interests of both BMRCL and the citizens of Bengaluru. There was zero public consultation for this unilateral decision to shift the station from the location approved by both State and Union Governments in 2014 itself.

When BMRCL was asked the reasons for the shift, they cited the fact that the railways were not easily parting with the land. When we took up this matter in the media, SWR came out with a press release dated July 24 clarifying their readiness to cooperate. Then, BMRCL stated that the shift was only 250 m. On checking with Google maps, I found the distance to be 1.5km by road. BMRCL responded by stating they were referring to a straight-line distance between the two stations. Google Distance Finder showed the straight-line distance between the centre of the playground and the centre of the railway platform to be 800m. Later, BMRCL said they wanted to serve the dense population around the playground. Ironically, the playground users held a protest on August 27 against the playground being used for a metro station under the banner “Save Our Playground”. Meanwhile, BMRCL refused to make the Phase 2 DPR public.

On September 5, I started a petition on Change.org titled “Namma Metro with Namma Consultations” asking for reversal of the decision, public consultations and the DPR. To date, this petition has garnered 35,000 supporters.

The media took up the issue of the shift in a big way and we sent memorandums to BMRCL as well as about a dozen ministers, MPs and officials, both at the state and Centre.

A survey was conducted at Cantonment Railway Station and everyone was shocked when informed of the BMRCL’s decision. Feeling the heat, on September 21, 2017, BMRCL held a press meet to explain their reasons for the shift. Their reasons fell under 3 heads:

(1) Technical:

  1. Curvature and consequent reduction in speed.
  2. Connectivity is same from both locations.
  3. Tunnel length an “engineering challenge”.
  4. Depth under railway platform.

(2) Safety: Evacuation in emergencies, on account of tunnel length and curvature.

(3) Financial: Saving of Rs 1,000 crore by using new alignment.

On October 7, we conducted a Citizens’ Round Table inviting everyone to attend and share their views. Surprisingly, BMRCL came out with a press release, refusing to attend the same citing presence of media at this meeting! However, I presented our rebuttal of the reasons stated by BMRCL for the shift. This event was widely reported by the media:

Curvature and speed:

  • Only one extra curve in old (approved) curvature compared to the new curvature.
  • Time saving of 2 minutes for airport users – who anyway have to reach the airport 2 hours in advance – is not significant.
  • Each of the thousands of railway users will end up losing an average 15 minutes to move between train and metro – either way – at the new location.
  • With 3 stations (stoppages) in a span of 2km (Shivajinagar-Cantonment (New) – Pottery Town), it is impossible to reach high speed in the new alignment. Hence the new alignment itself is speed limiting.
  • There is a very sharp curve between MG Road and Shivajinagar in the same line, which is definitely speed limiting, but there is no question raised by BMRCL about this curve.
  • The diagram below depicts all the curves referred to above.

Connectivity is same from approved and new locations:

  • The new location is minimum 1.5km from the main entrance by road.
  • There are no good roads at the new location as well as parking area or bus and auto connectivity. These are all available at the old (approved) location.
  • The IR users will have to move 80m from the old metro location whereas they will have to move 800m from the new location.
  • Suburban train users will have to move about 330m from the old metro location whereas they will have to move 550m from the new location.
  • One look at the diagram below, and it is obvious even to a nursery school child that connectivity from A and B is most definitely NOT the same!

Length of tunnel:

  • 1.6 km tunnel between Cantonment (old approved location) to Pottery Town cannot be an “engineering challenge”.
  • There are longer metro tunnels already built in India, especially Delhi.
  • The rocky terrain of Bengaluru has been handled by BMRCL in Phase 1.
  • There is provision for a mid-way shaft as stated in the DPR for this line. During construction, this shaft site can be used to take care of any problems.
  • Bengaluru is the technology capital of the country, and new technologies and resources availability should ensure appropriate solutions.

Depth below platform to be 30M:

  • Again, 30m-deep metro tunnels have already been completed in India.
  • Deeper tunnels (45m) have also been made.
  • Tunnels at 30m depth have been completed under rivers in Kolkata and Pune.
  • There is no such requirement from Railway Board which BMRCL has shared, despite requests from media.
  • My suggested solution: By shifting the approved alignment slightly westward, it can be taken out of the platform area, and then the 30m depth rule (if it exists) will not apply. The black line is the approved alignment, passing under the western end of the platform. I suggest a slight western shift of this alignment so that the metro tunnel passes outside the western end of the platform, so the need to go 30m below is no longer there. Instead of shifting the alignment by say 100m to the west, BMRCL has decided to shift it about 1,000m to the East, not bothering about much-needed integration.

Safety in tunnel:

  • The chances of 8,000 people getting stuck at the centre-point of the 1,600m long tunnel (between Pottery Town and approved Cantonment location) – resulting in 800m evacuation – is extremely low.
  • Protocols are in place to handle situations like this.
  • The very same line has 1424m and 1403m long tunnels – resulting in 712m and 702m evacuation possibilities – and there is no mention of safety or risk in these tunnels.
  • BMRCL will be forcing thousands of users – including every elderly person, child and woman – to walk an average of 800m between the metro and train every single day, by shifting the Cantonment Metro Station from the approved spot to the new location.

Saving of Rs 1,000 crore by change of alignment:

  • If that is the intention, the entire line can be made an absolutely straight line from Gottigere to Nagavara, avoiding Shivajinagar Bus Stand too, and much more money can be saved.
  • Much more money has been already lost – and will further be lost – on account of delays since 2014, when the project received all its approvals.
  • Real savings can be achieved by expediting work and avoiding wrong decisions of changing alignments for the purpose of saving money.
  • The metro is designed to serve users for the next 100 years and savings of Rs 1,000 crore at the cost of losing money, congestion and pollution are not in the interest of BMRCL or the users.
  • Footfalls will be much higher at the old approved location and BMRCL will earn huge revenues on account of this.
  • An additional reason has also been stated in the media by 2 Karnataka State Cabinet Ministers (Mr K J George and Mr Roshan Baig):

Congestion will increase on account of both metro and railway stations being in front of each other:

  • This is simply not true.
  • With an appropriately designed subway from the underground metro station at the approved location to the railway station, the congestion will reduce drastically. The subway will also ensure drastic reduction of crowds on the surface and roads.
  • People will be quickly evacuated once they get off the trains and move to the metro station, on account of metro trains being available every 2 minutes.
  • People who will use the metro to reach the station will not come hours before, since the metro train frequency is high (every minute) and timing/schedules will be maintained.
  • The metro station at the new location will increase congestion on account of people unable to walk the long distance, or being forced to take vehicles (auto, cab, bus, etc.) to commute between the two stations.
  • Many people will avoid using metro to go to the railway station on account of the distance between the 2 stations, and will use vehicles, including private cars, adding to congestion.
  • The subway from the new location to the end of the Platform 1A will lead to massive congestion on the platform and may become a huge safety risk for pedestrians on account of congestion there.

How does the location of this station affect every citizen? Well, proper integration of Namma Metro and Railways will ensure that people across Bengaluru prefer to use metro to reach the railway station and get back, reducing road traffic. Travellers going to the airport from nearby towns will take trains to the Cantonment and use the metro to reach the airport. Also, people from at least five 5-star hotels (near Cantonment Railway Station) will prefer to use the metro to commute to the airport, thus reducing traffic on the roads leading to the airport. Thousands of people come to work from all over Bengaluru to the area opposite to Cantonment Railway Station (Cunningham Road, Miller Road, major corporates, hospitals, institutions, colleges, etc.) and these people will use the metro rather than private vehicles. None of this will be possible if the metro station is shifted from its approved location.

In the light of the above, the question arises whether there could be some other hidden reason for this shift. The lack of transparency and proactive public consultation also indicates the same.

All the reasons given by BMRCL have been adequately countered. Perhaps the pressure of public opinion can now work wonders. This is where the need to educate citizens of the ramifications of this retrograde decision becomes very important. On becoming aware, when citizens voice their opinion on this matter in different ways – social media, media statements, talking to others, writing to MPs, MLAs, ministers, corporators etc. – there is a good chance that the decision will be reversed.

Since BMRCL has to move quickly on this project, urgency of people’s opinion becomes relevant. One small victory was clocked when BMRCL, purely under to public pressure, put out the DPR in the public domain, on October 12. A bigger victory will be reversal of the decision to shift the station.

With the station in its approved location, the integration will be tight and will lead to good usage of metro/railways/suburban trains and reduction in traffic congestion and pollution. A simple solution to a complicated problem is possible – provided we voice our opinion appropriately and quickly.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.

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