Citizen Action Forum (CAF) suggests remedial measures that will decongest Bengaluru's Airport Road, without going for steel flyover.
Government of Karnataka has issued a clarification detailing the reasons behind their decision to install a steel flyover from Chalukya circle to Hebbal flyover. Unfortunately it is a purely one sided rationale without any comparative study of alternatives. Citizens’ Action Forum has worked out an alternative which is far more comprehensive, less disruptive and genuinely sustainable. This solution will not only help the airport passengers to have a hassle free journey but also help in resolving the traffic problems faced by commuters in the city.
One of the main objections to the construction of steel flyover from Chalukya circle to Hebbal junction is that it is a standalone project which will only result in shifting the traffic pain points, like the Silk Board junction flyover did decades ago. At that time the S M Krishna government ignored public opinion and went ahead with the project creating untold misery, chaos and confusion and which still eludes a comprehensive solution to date. A similar or a worse fate awaits this steel flyover. There are many issues that are deliberately being ignored due to the intense lobbying by vested interest groups.
Let us start with the traffic figures as released by the Government of Karnataka. The daily traffic at the Hebbal junction is in the order of 3,43,505 with a peak hour figure of 23,799 PCUs. Now the basic problem with the traffic on the Airport Road is that the entire traffic proceeding to the airport has to pass through Hebbal flyover the design of which has created a bottleneck both at the entry and exit of the flyover.
Extra lane added proves insufficient
We still remember that just a few years back one more lane had to be added to the existing flyover to ease the constant traffic blocks. Within a short span of not even two years, it has proved to be insufficient once again proving the universally accepted principal that Road widening per se provides no sustainable solution to the traffic problems anywhere in the world. Unfortunately Bengaluru planners seem to be learning no lessons from this and continue with providing patchwork, costly and extremely temporary solutions to the problem. Examples of this shortsighted and myopic planning are aplenty in our city and are the basic cause of the traffic nightmare.
Let us now try to understand why and how traffic is increasing on Bellary Road. The obvious reason for the increase in traffic is the presence of one of the fastest growing airports in the world. Last year’s growth of KIAL was 23% and is expected to continue to grow in a similar fashion for at least another decade. The growth has taken KIAL authorities also by surprise and they are struggling to augment the available infrastructure of the airport to keep pace with this unprecedented growth.
Combination of Road and Rail
So if we assume an annual growth of passengers at a more reasonable level of 20% p.a. then there will be a similar increase in the airport bound traffic also. Now the question we have to ask is that will this steel flyover be able to provide a solution for at least a decade after its completion? The answer is a definite NO because in another decade the traffic will reach a magic figure of almost 7,50,000 vehicles per day with a peak hour traffic of around 60000 to 75000 vehicles per hour. We should therefore start seriously thinking of alternatives for this. One of the possible alternatives is as follows:
A combination of Road and Rail routes consisting of:
1. More than one road preferably three alternative roads out of which, except the present the others should not pass through Hebbal Junction. This should take not more than 24 months to complete as the basic framework of roads is already existing.
2. Introducing Commuter Rail System with a minimum frequency of 15 minutes and interconnecting to start with Whitefield with the Airport via Byappanahalli, K R Puram, Bangalore Cantonment, Bengaluru City and Yeshwanthpur in one circuit and Attibele to Airport via Electronic City in the second circuit. This could easily be completed in a maximum of 18 months period as the basic infrastructure is existing and the only thing that needs augmenting is signaling and perhaps addition of tracks at a later date.
How will Road and Rail combination work?
If the above is implemented the entire traffic gets segregated as follows:
Between Rail and Road it will be 25% (1,87,500 passengers) and 75% (5,62,500 passengers) because no train route to airports anywhere in the world caters to more than 30% of the total traffic. There are valid reasons for this. International travelers prefer to travel by Road because of the heavy luggage they carry. Secondly for a vast majority of domestic travelers it is a question of status. Therefore the %age of rail travelers hovers around 30% universally.
This leaves, even after a decade (with an estimated traffic of 7,50,000 vehicles per day), a road traffic volume of 5,62,500 vehicles per day with a peak traffic of around 60,000 vehicle per hour.
Assuming that this will be evenly distributed among three alternate well laid out roads the traffic volume on these roads will be slightly less than 2,00,000 vehicles per day which is much less than the present volume being handled by the Hebbal flyover (actually as per the official estimates 40% of airport bound traffic originates from KR Puram – Whitefield belt, 30% from Electronic City side and the balance 30% from other parts of the city). A simple road traffic survey which could be completed in three months time can give us the details of the originating traffic from each of these nodes.
Equally importantly this avoids the disruption and consequent inconvenience to the existing system. CAF hopes and trusts that the Government will take a more balanced view and put this project on hold. It is also being observed that with the entry of political parties and some prominent politicians the issue is getting politicised and in the bargain the focus is shifting away from the central issue of finding a sustainable, comprehensive solution to the traffic problems of Bengaluru.
Commuter Rail - sustainable, part of comprehensive solution
Finally, a word about the costing. The Commuter Rail portion is only a part of the comprehensive Commuter Rail System under the consideration of the government and may cost around Rs 4000 crores for these two lines and the share of the State Government at 50% of the cost will be around Rs 2000 crores.
Another and more important point will be that it is part of the more comprehensive transport plan for Bengaluru and benefits not only the airport passengers but also the lakhs of persons working in the Whitefield and Electronic City area and thus will help in declogging the traffic nightmares of Bengaluru.
The strengthening and widening of alternate roads to the airport may cost around Rs 1000 crores. But it provides an ecologically and functionally sustainable and comprehensive transport system without any tree cutting and causing tremendous disruption of traffic on the existing Airport road.