Namma Metro racing towards Phase I completion

There is definite excitement in the air and sense of relief for the ‘Namma Metro’ officials with the Phase I completion of 42.3Km metro rail line in April 2017. From the initial conception of 2002 and starting in 2006, the project has faced significant execution, bureaucratic and procedural challenges. When foundation stone was laid in 2006, the plan was to have Byappanahalli-MG road stretch operational by 2009 and completion of first phase by 2011. But the first line was commissioned in 2011 and Phase is expected to complete in 2017.

The delay in execution meant escalation of costs which was pegged to 6000Cr in cost report in 2002–03, revised to 11,609 Cr in 2011. By January 2014 the cost had escalated to 13,800Cr for Phase I and Phase II was estimated at 26,405Cr with cost escalation of 5% at least every year due to inflation making the total cost of project reach 40,000Cr.

The engineering challenges related to tunneling with the metro had been significant with tunnel boring machines breaking down due to significant rocky terrain, delicate tunneling needed to be done below significant heritage places including Vidhan Soudha and ensuring no cracks appear even in old mud houses in fragile houses of densely populated areas of chickpet.

There were also significant land acquisition challenges with opposition in CMH road during intial stages, stations in MG Road erstwhile Plaza theatre and near Trinity Circle. Underground rail required 800 m ramp and exit and to find suitable locations for those given the difference in geographical height and depth of regions in MGRoad and Indiranagar and concerns of civil society of destroying the façade of MG Road boulevard, needed to be addressed to ensure minimal disruptions from stakeholders.

Namma Metro currently serves 550,000 passengers a day in a city of 12 Million population which is about 8–10% of Bangalore traffic which is expected to double to 15–16% with the opening of North-South line from Nagasandra to Puttenahalli. This will also change the traffic patterns in the city with people opting for Metro for portions of their travel through Metro to reduce travel time due to congestion in Outer ring roads and Central Business Districts.

The success of BMRCL goes to show that when proper structure and framework is provided, organizations develop mission and purpose and even public sector units get motivated to do strong execution and deliver projects on time and with quality and taking citizen and customer focus to core. The critical element for this culture to emerge was to keep BMRCL untouched and un-influenced by the culture of Indian Railways and build and organization which is more flexible, quick in decision making and heavily customer focused.. Hence, it was necessary to bring it under Delhi Metro Railway act and not under Indian Railways purview.

Technical quality of any organization performance goes up by several notches, when the metrics are measured by independent regulator who is separate from the organization structure of Metro and cannot be influenced. The design of the metro also takes into consideration the increase in traffic over 10–20 years’ time frame, which has ensured that Namma Metro will be able to absorb increase in passenger count in long term and alter the traffic pattern of the city once Phase I becomes completely operational.

In April 2017, when both Purple and Green lines of Phase I will be complete, the hard work, dedication and accomplishment of Namma Metro engineers will be something every bengalurean will definitely be proud of.

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