Bengaluru buses and Namma Metro on the journey to recovery – The Hindu

To enjoy additional benefits
December 21, 2022 07:49 pm | Updated December 22, 2022 12:00 am IST –  Bengaluru
Ridership in city buses and Namma Metro increased considerably following relaxation of COVID-19 related norms.  | Photo Credit: K. MURALI KUMAR
After suffering financial distress for two years due to the pandemic, 2022 has helped the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) and Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) to “normalise” public transport services in the city.
Ridership in city buses and Namma Metro increased considerably following relaxation of COVID-19 related norms.
The BMTC is running 5,700 buses and the ridership has jumped to 35 lakh per day. The average per day ridership in Namma Metro crossed over 5 lakh, helping the BMRCL to generate operational profit.
This year also saw some milestones being achieved. On August 15, BMTC reached a milestone by celebrating the silver jubilee. In 1997, the then Bangalore Transport Services (BTS) was carved out of the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) and a separate Corporation named BMTC was formed to provide city buses for Bengaluru.
To mark the silver jubilee, the BMTC offered free bus services across the city on Independence Day.
Due to financial difficulties and other reasons, the BMTC had postponed the induction of new buses for years. This year, the corporation has managed to add more than 1,000 new buses to its existing fleet. The new buses inducted include 803 BSVI diesel buses and 270 odd electric buses under FAME -2 of the Union government.
Though the BMTC’s fleet size has increased after induction of the new buses, shortage of drivers impacted utilisation of the fleet size.
“Available fleet sizes remain underutilised due to a shortage of 3,500 drivers. The recruitment of new drivers was stalled after the outbreak of the pandemic. There is a scope to run 1,000 more buses, but for the time being augmentation of buses is impacted,” said Director (IT) of the BMTC, Surya Sen A.V.
He also said that the introduction of the digital pass system helped passengers in a big way. “Using digital pass system, more than 90,000 people are travelling in city buses. They are able to buy daily, weekly and monthly passes at their comfort. When we launched the service, 20,000 passengers were using it, but now the number has increased considerably. There is no need for the passengers to visit ticket issuing counters to purchase passes.”
He added that this month, the BMTC is also introducing new electronic ticketing machines (ETMs) on a large scale, which will help passengers to buy tickets through various digital modes.
A total of 9,500 ETMs will be made available. He said the corporation is all set to launch upgraded mobile app which will help people to plan their bus trips as real time arrival of buses and other information can be availed.  
After missing several deadlines in the past, the BMRCL finally started a trial run to extend the Purple Line of Namma Metro to Whitefield. The metro stretch from K.R. Puram to Whitefield is expected to be operational by March 2023, and the remaining stretch from Baiyappanahalli to K.R. Puram is likely to be opened for the public by mid-2023. Opening of the line is expected to benefit over 3 lakh passengers.
The Namma Metro has been operational for over 11 years in the city and passengers were relying on smart cards and tokens to travel in the metro.
This year, for the first time, the BMRCL introduced QR tickets using WhatsApp and Namma Metro. The BMRCL has claimed that it is the first global transit space to introduce an end-to-end ticketing system on WhatsApp. On average, 14,000 passengers use the QR ticket system. 
Prior to this, the BMRCL had introduced one-day, three-days, and five-day passes. The BMRCL has also taken several measures to generate non-fare box revenue by allowing shops, eateries, and other commercial establishments at metro stations. 
The BMRCL started implementing one of the crucial metro lines linking Kempegowda International Airport with the city. The project is being implemented under phase II B by extending ORR (Central Silk Board to K.R. Puram) from K.R. Puram via Nagawara and Hebbal. The total length of the ORR-airport line is 55 km.
During the execution of the work, the BMRCL faced many challenges, including heavy rainfall. In September and October, works had to be temporarily halted when the city received incessant rain in the eastern part of Bengaluru.
Anjum Parwez, MD, BMRCL, said: “Commencing the metro work to the airport is a significant development. The work is going at a good pace. This year, the Phase III metro from J.P. Nagar to Kempapura and Hosahalli to Kadabagere has received approval of the State government and the file has been moved to the Central government for clearance.”
The BMRCL has deployed a total of nine tunnel boring machines (TBMs) to build a tunnel network of 14 km from Dairy Circle to Nagawara. Machines named Vamika, Avni, Varada, Lavi, and Bhadra achieved breakthroughs by reaching designated underground stations.
Meanwhile, a TBM named Rudra was stuck after encountering a garbage pile-up 30 feet below the surface near Lakkasandra. The garbage dumped used to be a quarry land more than 40 years ago. The BMRCL is building a concrete box to resume tunneling work in the area.
After a long delay, preliminary works of the Bengaluru suburban rail network in the city commenced this year.
Rail Infrastructure Development Company (Karnataka) Limited – KRIDE, an SPV implementing the project, issued a work order to Larsen & Toubro for civil works of corridor -2 (Mallige Line) from Baiyappanahalli to Chikkabanavara.
Though the preliminary works started at Hebbal, due to delay in transfer of railway land from South Western Railway (SWR) to KRIDE, the pace of the work remained slow.
Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, during his visit to the city, said that land would be made available for the project at the earliest. Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation for the project in June. 
The Railways starting Vande Bharat train between Chennai and Mysuru via Bengaluru was one of the major highlights. In November, Mr. Modi launched the first-ever Vande Bharat service in South India.
The new generation train service received good response from the passengers, but travel time remained almost similar to that of the Shatabdi. The speed of the Vande Bharat can be only increased after upgrading track infrastructure in this corridor. 
After electrification of the Yelahanka-Devanahalli line, the SWR for the first time introduced MEMU train services for air passengers and people working at KIA.
Five pairs of MEMU services were introduced from the city to the airport from July. For various reasons, the patronage to the services remains poor all these months.
Though the SWR and BIAL(operator of the airport) and other stakeholders at the airport held meetings to improve the ridership, nothing has worked out so far.
In June, Mr. Modi also inaugurated the “airport like” Sir M. Visvesvaraya Terminal at Baiyappanahalli. The terminal hit headlines for its designs and amenities provided for the passengers. However, poor road network and transport services linking the terminal remain a concern for the passengers.
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