Urban Railways

Bengaluru’s Whitefield first tech corridor to be connected by Metro

B Shashidhar spends an average of four hours a day on the road commute between home and office. A techie by profession, Shashidhar’s JP Nagar 5th phase residence in south Bengaluru and International Tech Park Bangalore (ITPB), Whitefield office are 27 kilometres apart.

This weekend, Whitefield will become Bengaluru’s first tech corridor to be connected by Metro. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the long-pending Whitefield-KR Puram Metro section (13.7 km) on March 25.

For 50-year-old Shashidhar and lakhs of others like him who spend a sizeable chunk of their working day navigating road traffic, it could be a relief. “It takes me roughly two hours each way and if I stay back in the office till after 8 pm, the travel time is marginally lesser. I’ve been working in ITPB since 2001 and in the last ten years traffic has only gone from bad to worse and any rains in the evening can turn it into a nightmare,” Shashidhar told Moneycontrol.

In 2017, Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (BMRCL) awarded the civil work contract for the 15-km Byappanahalli-Whitefield stretch with a 27-month deadline. It was originally supposed to be completed in 2020 but it’s only now after multiple missed deadlines that a part of the section is finally ready.

The inordinate delay has left those like Shashidhar unhappy. “They (BMRCL) failed to complete the work in time and they’re going to run operations between KR Puram and Whitefield. It’s a band-aid solution. Who is responsible for the precious hours that people like us have lost in traffic all these years?” he said.

Shashidhar plans to give the Metro a shot once it opens. “I will have to take the Green Line from my residence and then switch to the Purple Line at Majestic interchange. I will have to get off at Byappanahalli Metro station, catch a feeder bus to KR Puram and then take a train from KR Puram station to ITPB. It might sound like a whole lot of steps but I think it’s still a lot better than having to drive through choked roads in peak hours.”

The Whitefield Metro, he says, will only serve its full purpose and benefit a larger cross-section of commuters once BMRCL links KR Puram and Byappanahalli. “The success of this section will depend on the efficiency of feeder bus services between both stations, better crowd management at the Majestic interchange and train frequency. Trains are already overcrowded due to poor frequency,” he said.

As things stand, BMRCL is in no position to increase the frequency of services since it is grappling with a shortage of rolling stock (trains).

From sleepy village to tech nerve centre

Whitfield in east Bengaluru was a sleepy village till the late 1990s, but it is now a major hub for the country’s tech industry. It houses major tech parks like Export Promotion Industrial Park and ITBP (see graphics), which serve as an address for major IT giants. Metro work on other tech corridors like Electronics City and Outer Ring Road is currently in progress.

The Prime Minister who will inaugurate the Whitefield-KR Puram section will also travel by Metro on March 25, while the commercial operations will commence on March 26. The section has 12 stations but the major hurdle presently is the missing link between Byappanahalli and KR Puram (around 2 km). According to BMRCL, dedicated feeder bus services between KR Puram and SV Road Metro stations will be provided to passengers.

A gamechanger for residents, techies

The Whitefield metro is likely to be a game-changer for residents. Bangalore Metro Updates the user behind the anonymous Twitter handle, which has been extensively tracking Whitefield Metro progress, told Moneycontrol: “Metro operations from Whitefield will bring in a lot of changes – ease of reaching different parts of the city, minimal usage of personal vehicles and, of course, safe travel. We have been waiting for this moment for over six years and it’s finally here. I’m super excited for my first ride.”

Communications professional and Whitefield resident Tinu Cherian Abraham said, “We’re hoping that the Byappanahalli to KR Puram stretch will also be completed soon so that it’s a relief for Whitefield residents commuting to the Central Business District area. We also strongly urge renaming Pattandur Agrahara to ITPB, since it’s the more popular name. No one really recognises the current name” he said.

“Whitefield Metro will be a game changer,” said Clement Jayakumar, secretary, Mahadevapura MLA’s Task Force (Mobility). “Our goal is to provide varied commuting options for the residents to choose from and a modal shift to public transport is the only way to decongest Mahadevapura,” he said.

The success of Whitefield Metro, however, relies on the last-mile connectivity, said Pravir B, co-founder of Whitefield Rising, a group highlighting civic and mobility issues. “This corridor is cutting through major tech parks but skipping many residential areas. It was mainly planned to help office-goers who come to Whitefield from other parts of the city.”

Pravir, a resident of Whitefield since 1998, said, “Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) should operate feeder buses in a 2-3 km radius of each metro station. People will also use the metro for visiting shopping malls at weekends and also to catch long-distance trains at Whitefield and KR Puram railway stations.”

Citizens are also working with BMRCL to make it a model Metro corridor. R K Misra, a resident of Whitefield and an urban mobility expert said, “We are happy that the metro is finally coming to Whitefield. We are also working closely with agencies like Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT), BMTC, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) along with BMRCL to improve multi-modal integration, pedestrian infrastructure and feeder bus connectivity.”

Country’s second-longest Metro network

Bengaluru Metro, South India’s first metro network operational since 2011, is poised to become the country’s second-longest metro network, displacing Hyderabad. At present, a 56 km metro network is operational in Bengaluru. Once the Whitefield Metro is operational, the city’s total metro network will stand at 70 km. Delhi Metro, which commenced operations in 2002, is 350 km long. Hyderabad metro, which came into existence in 2017, is a 67 km network, followed by 54 km in Chennai (since 2015), 48 km in Kolkata (since 1984) and 46 km in Mumbai (since 2014).

According to BMRCL officials, Bengaluru will have a 175 km metro rail network by June 2025. “Whitefield is home to hundreds of companies with lakhs of employees. We are expecting people staying in places like Whitefield, Kadugodi, Channasandra and working in areas like Mahadevapura to take the metro. We’re also likely to get decent weekend footfall numbers given the shopping malls located in the area. There will be a massive jump in ridership once the Byappanahalli-KR Puram section is operational,” BMRCL managing director Anjum Parwez told Moneycontrol.

BMRCL has decided to deploy five trains between KR Puram and Whitefield to run a frequency of 10-12 minutes. The maximum fare between Whitefield and KR Puram will be priced at Rs 35 and the travel time between both destinations is 22 minutes. This section is an extension of Bengaluru’s east-west corridor (Purple Line).