Baiyappanahalli: Fill terminal gaps :
Designed to decongest, determined to deliver, the Baiyappanahalli coaching terminal could dramatically alter the way Bengalureans step in or step out of a long-distance train. In two months from now, this could turn real, even if the terminal’s fancy, airport-like façade takes years to hit ground zero. The Railways just had no choice. Their infrastructure stretched far beyond capacity, the city’s KSR Bengaluru (Majestic) and Yeswanthpura terminals have exceeded sustainable limits with 220 trains chugging in and chugging out every day. The tracks, the manpower, the station space are all under strain. Baiyappanahalli had to happen, and fast. Equipped with three platforms, three stabling lines for trains to park and three pit lines for maintenance and repair, the new terminal has huge potential to decongest. Reservation counters, signal and telecommunication systems and a structure to house route relay interlocking systems are also part of the plan. Passenger comfort The rationale behind a third terminal that cost the Indian Railways upwards of Rs 152 crore is clear. But this does not guarantee passenger comfort. Commuters living close to the KSR and Yeswanthpura terminals are bound to grumble once trains are shifted. An estimated 32 pairs of trains are likely to be shifted to Baiyappanahalli. Seamless multi-modal connectivity could pacify commuters. The coaching terminal’s proximity to the Baiyappanahalli Metro Terminal offers an opportunity. But, as urban mobility analyst Sanjeev Dyamannavar points out, the key is to link the one-kilometre gap with a foot over bridge. The bridge will have to be designed well with roof and lights. A model already exists. The pedestrian bridge connecting the City Railway Metro Station with the KSR Station has been well-received by commuters in their teeming thousands. If funds permit, a walkalator could be installed later and reduce the burden of those with heavy luggage, feels Dyamannavar. BMTC connectivity But ‘multi-modal’ would remain largely ineffective without the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC). Options suggested: Buses that start from Baiyappanahalli terminal, proper bus shelters, shuttle services linking the new facility to Banaswadi, Indiranagar, HAL, K R Puram and surrounding areas. Currently, road connectivity from Old Madras Road to the new terminal has a critical choke-point: The old railway gate on Baiyappanahalli Main Road. The bridge to bypass this gate has been standing unfinished for years due to land acquisition issues. The Defence Ministry has finally agree to give the land required to complete the bridge. “The BBMP should now take over the land and deliver it to the Railways to complete their part of the work. The Railway Minister should work on speeding up this project.” Unfinished bridge Once the bridge is operationalised and the railway gate closed, the frequency of trains between the KSR, Bangalore Cantonment and Baiyappanahalli could get the right boost. Since the automatic signalling project has picked up pace, more trains could be introduced on this route. Beyond the bridge, at the far end of the terminal, connectivity to Banaswadi, HRBR Layout, OMBR Layout and other areas remain clogged as ever. A reality check by DH found the ramp leading to Banaswadi Main Road from Baiyappanahalli Road too narrow to negotiate. Traffic experts are convinced that once the terminal opens, vehicular movement towards Banaswadi will rise enormously. The narrow ramp and the road underneath are simply inadequate to carry the additional load. Incoming traffic from Maruti Seva Nagar side might just come through but not in the reverse direction. Additional trains The impending chaos on the road could only get worse once new trains are introduced from the Baiyappanahalli terminal. Both Express and Passenger trains originating from the terminal are on the Railways’ agenda before the second phase of the project kicks off next year. On paper, however, the Indian Railway Stations Development Corporation (IRSDC) has proposed an upgrade of key roads leading to the new terminal. This is part of a larger plan, the cynosure of which is a butterfly-shaped terminal structure, complete with integrated courtyards, roof gardens, retail plazas and glitzy interiors. Once commissioned, this project could take at least five years to complete. Echoing the ambience of an international airport, the redeveloped terminal building will also integrate chic waiting areas, food courts, restaurants, kiosks, escalators and elevators. Digital passenger information displays, fire safety and foolproof smart security systems could totally transform the picture of a railway terminal in public imagination. But this Rs 250 crore project, as many urban rail activists point out, might remain a dream for the next ten years. IRSDC road proposals However, the IRSDC blueprint does offer some directions on connectivity. And this goes beyond the terminal structure. IRSDC’s invitation to planners and developers to bid for the project on a public-private partnership could potentially spark a mobility upgrade of the entire area in the terminal’s vicinity. The Baiyappanahalli Road running adjacent to the terminal is now only 10 metres wide, with vast stretches in disrepair. The Revised Master Plan (RMP-2031) indicates that the road’s Right of Way (RoW) will be extended to 18 metres. IRSDC, in its blueprint, takes this further to 24 metres. To ease the congestion at the intersection of Baiyappanahalli Road and Banaswadi Road, an additional 16-metre Road Over Bridge has been proposed. But land acquisition issues could complicate matters here. Decongestion has its dividends. Yet, to maximise the benefits of the city’s third terminal, priority should really be on sustainable inter-modal connectivity that minimises commute troubles. Rail passenger groups, seasoned suburban rail activists and experts are all convinced that this will remain a mirage without the active involvement of all stake-holders: The Railways, Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation, BMTC and multiple civic agencies.