By Sridhar Vivan www.bangaloremirror.com
On the one hand the city whines that it doesn’t have a “lifeline” like Mumbai’s suburban trains. It clamours for Metro and other high-speed rail networks. On the other, South Western Railway (SWR) is planning to withdraw the train service from Yeshwanthpur to Devanahalli via Bengaluru International Airport (BIA) just a year after it was introduced.
Railway officials blame it on the poor response from the public. Bangalore Mirror took a test ride on the 10.35 am train from Yeshwanthpur on Friday, and found only eight passengers on board the seven-coach rake. An official said that there had been several days when not a single soul boarded the train.
The train consumes 200 litres of diesel for the 33-km run from Yeshwanthpur to Devanahalli. At Rs 46 per litre, it costs SWR Rs 9,200 per one-way trip just on fuel. And a ticket for the ride costs only Rs 6. Divisional railway manager Sudhanshu Mani told BM, “The response has been very poor. We want to withdraw the service. But since the train was introduced on the state government’s request, the railway board will take the final decision.”
Every day, thousands of people, including air passengers, travel between Bangalore and Devanahalli. While the BMTC’s Vayu Vajra buses charge Rs 160 per head, an A/C cab costs between Rs 700 and Rs 1,000. At Rs 6 per ticket, the train travel saves passengers on money and gives them relief from traffic jams.
…And the disadvantages
Many people, including some railway officials, are not even aware that the train service exists. “I once heard about such a proposal, but had no idea that the train was actually plying,” a senior railway official said.
Since Yeshwanthpur station is located at the north-west corner of the city, passengers from other parts have to spend a lot of time travelling by road to board the train.
The service could be of use to more people if the train starts from Bangalore City railway station (Majestic), and goes via Kengeri or Whitefield.
Another inconvenience is that passengers going to the airport have to get down at Devanahalli station. The train passes through Trumpet Interchange (diversion of road towards BIA), but has no stop there despite BMTC operating pick-up services from the junction to the airport.
“The train’s timing is also odd. It leaves Yeshwanthpur at 10.35 am and reaches Devanahalli at 11.45 am. The return journey commences at 1.15 pm and ends at 2.30 pm. So it is of no use to people travelling during peak hours,” K Devanand, a techie who recently travelled by the train, said.
So, while better response from passengers might encourage the railways not to withdraw the service, the latter too can make the service more useful by running the train from Bangalore City station and changing the timing.
Hosur train a hit
The train service between Yeshwanthpur and Hosur is gaining in popularity. Since it often takes two hours to cover the distance between the two places by road, and costs around Rs 50 in an ordinary bus, more and more people are taking the rail route. It takes only one and half hours, and a ticket costs only Rs 11. The train goes via Hebbal, Banaswadi and Karmelaram.
S P Lakshmeesha, a techie who travels from Yeshwanthpur to Electronics City every day, said, “Had there been halts near Marathalli bridge and Chandapura, the train would have been a big help for techies going to ITPB and Electronics City.”