Bengaluru, variously called ‘garden city’, ‘India’s Silicon Valley’, ‘shopper’s paradise’ and many more, is unarguably a favorite destination for many of us. But increasing traffic woes and unresolved connectivity issues have been a cause of worry over years.
A decade ago, Bengaluru’s International airport was opened at Devanahalli, 37 km from the city centre. Ever since, there has been continuing debate on finding ways to improve connectivity to the airport from various centres in the city. Despite various alternative options for improved transportation, however, the BDA (Bengaluru Development Authority) has come up with a proposal for a steel flyover of 6.7 km, from Basaveshwara Circle to Hebbal, to ease the traffic to the airport. The flyover would cost approximately ₹1,791crore. But is this the right decision?
Is this the optimal solution for the ever-growing issue of increasing traffic and increasing bottlenecks? Does it logically support the plan of investing a whopping expense of ₹1,791crore, loss of over 812 trees, destruction of heritage buildings, just to save 7-10 minutes of drive to airport?
Why not steel?
Looked at from an engineering perspective, though steel is one of the widely used materials for construction, it has a few limitations too. To list a few major flaws:
— The maintenance cost of steel is high, hence would need expensive paints to protect it from rusting.
— Steel has less resistance to fire than concrete.
— Loss in ductility increases the risk of brittle fractures.
Given these flaws the steel flyover is not an ideal solution, especially when we are talking about durability and effectiveness for next 10-15 years.
Several studies estimate that the airport passenger traffic over the next 10-12 years will cross 35 million. Taking that into consideration, one alternative could be the development of a suburban rail line to connect to the airport. More stations and intra-city trains could decongest the city.
Strengthening the local train network, along with enhancement of the signalling system and railway crossings, would cost just about half the estimated cost of constructing a steel flyover. A full-fledged local train service would not only benefit over 25 lakh people but also help bring down the levels of air pollution from emissions that have been a concern over the past few years.
Another useful move would be to develop the existing alternative roads to the international airport by widening them so that everyone one need not use the Hebbal flyover. A few experts have also proposed opening the Hennur-Bagalur road up to Kempegowda.
Of the alternatives that could be considered is improving public transport, especially the existing buses. According to the BMTC, there exists a 6,700-strong fleet of buses and they happen to occupy just 3 per cent of traffic on the roads. Expanding the bus quality, reducing fares and increasing frequency would eventually work towards easing traffic.
The final take
A fast-flowing, six-lane, elevated corridor in a normally dense traffic zone would be any common man's dream. Especially when aiming at modernisation and globalisation of the city, coming up with a technically invasive idea is pretty impressive and one of its kind. Should this be implemented, Bengaluru would be the only city in India to have built a steel flyover. Yet, paying such a huge price for a relatively small saving is not justified. Approval to construct the steel structure would just be a colossal waste of public money.
Bengaluru city needs holistic plan, not band-aid fixes. It requires structured cost benefit analysis to enable better mobility.
The primary focus should be cost-effective solutions, long-term durability and encouraging people to opt for public transport.
Repeated misrepresentation of the facts and opinions by BDA and no transparency in the details raise concerns over the true intention behind this project.
Despite the visible opposition from citizens, environmentalists and other NGOs’ the unseemly haste by the government to start the project is questionable.
Major alternatives that need to be considered should be an increase in public transport, including bigger bus fleets, speedier completion of the Metro rail across the city, adding alternative routes, and developing the suburban rail network. The use of personal vehicles should simultaneously decrease.
If these measures are implemented, there would be no need for the steel flyover. Indeed, one can assert: “Let steel not steal the glory of the city!”
Sangita and Shivani are first-year PGDM students at IBS Hyderabad.