Bangalore Metro Rail Network: 50 years from now

namma metro rail (current logo)
namma metro rail (current logo)

Commuting by a suburban train or metro is fast becoming a reality in many Indian cities.  Metro rail is seen as an essential feature of a clean and green future.  The city of Bangalore in South India is implementing a city wide metro rail network project, the FIRST phase of which began sometime in the year 2006.  When Bangalore metro rail project was cleared by Karnataka state assembly (2005), there were many articles in various national dailies that compared various options for Bangalore.  One of those options was a possibility of a fully underground metro.  The cost of underground metro was estimated (Rs 18000 crore) to be three times that of above-ground metro (Rs 6000 crore).  The civic authorities chose the aboveground option and after eight years of slow death, after felling 1000s of trees, after erecting 100s of concrete pillars in their place, and after encroaching on every bit of pedestrian space in congested roads, the FIRST phase of Bangalore metro is still a long away from reaching full functionality.  The estimated cost is touching almost Rs 14000 crore!!

If the decision makers were a tiny bit visionary, they would not have followed the illogical and chaotic blueprint of existing Bangalore roads to plan a metro rail network.  An underground metro would have truly reduced traffic congestion, saved hundreds of fully mature heritage trees and above all, would have reduced bents and corners on the rail track to make the metro faster and efficient.  The idea of a fully underground metro was scrapped on flimsy grounds (e.g. high construction costs; challenges posed by Bangalore’s hard granite geology to tunnel boring).  However, in the heart of Bangalore, where the legislative house (Vidhana Soudha), the high court and other sites of “beauty” are located, metro did go underground. One wonders why the same could not be replicated for the entire city.  We are now in a situation where badly designed above-ground metro stations have taken up precious space, which otherwise could have been used to develop local bus stations for last mile connectivity.

The logo of Bangalore metro is inspired by a simple loop rangoli (see picture).  When the logo was launched (chosen as a winner amongst >400 competing entries), I liked the loop for its simplicity.  I liked it because it represented Indian ethos.  It promised a rail network that would take you closer to your home (where you are likely to see a similar rangoli at your door step).  I was hoping for an intelligent rail network.  But now, when I see the logo after eight years of pointless, loss making exercise (called metro rail construction), I feel as though the logo unwittingly depicts a never ending loop that goes round and round without ever reaching the destination (dots).  Certainly for the worse, Bangalore is growing at a rate of knots (pun intended) and the growth has no end in sight. We needed metro rail tunnels but we got a myopic tunnel view of metro rail from the city and state transport department. They will authorize more and more above-ground metro rail infrastructure, which will benefit nobody except the constructing agency and a few middlemen including politicians who will do everything in their capacity to expand their personal wealth.

bangalore metro rail logo_50 years from nowImagine what metro rail in Bangalore would look like 50 years from now.  The current logo will no longer serve its purpose.  We will be in need of a bigger and much more complicated network of networks (see picture).  The network will be more disjointed than ever before.  I may be overly optimistic about the extent of construction in the next 50 years.  Going by the current rate of construction, we may end up completing another loop of the existing kind by 2065.  The SECOND phase of Bangalore metro is scheduled to be completed in 2019.  It aspires to connect many suburbs in the outskirts of Bangalore.   Metro rail can deliver cleaner and safer commuting experience but it can do so only when it goes underground and gets dignity by embracing mother earth and not when the tracks are naked and exposed.


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