Bangalore's little Metro just took birth! Almost 19 months behind schedule, the little bit - the first reach of the first route of the first phase of the Bangalore Namma Metro - all 6.7 km of it - from M.G.Road, the nerve center of the city to Bayyappanahalli, an industrial/railway zone off to a side, was inaugurated and thrown open to the public yesterday, the 20th of October, 2011, amidst much fanfare. And a day after it's official launch, I took a ride on the brand new sparkling Namma Metro. Just like most of the things I do, it was not because I had any pressing engagements in Bayyappanahalli (of all places) or any other apparent reason, but just for the kicks and to satisfy my "early adopter" self. Also, as a responsible citizen of the city, I felt it was my civic duty to check out what we were rewarded with after more than 4 years of digging and chocking in concrete fumes. And I could not have been surprised more! And after enduring all the mess ever since construction started in 2007, we finally have a stretch of real intra-city rapid mass transport line of international standards!The Hindu
My Tryst With Namma Metro
I drove to M.G.Road (Yes, defeats the purpose I know. Next time I will take the bus, I promise), parked on Brigade Road and made my way to the M.G.Road station. I thought there might be an entrance from the old Plaza theater side, but there was none. I had to hike back to the Kaveri signal, cross the road towards Kamaraj Road and then stand in line among barricades for around 10 minutes before I was frisked and let in. The ticket counter was crowded, there were only three counters and the personnel were a harassed lot. I guess things will get easier later as more people will buy passes and cards. After paying, I was provided with a round black token almost the size of a Rs.2 coin, which I had to place on top of a turnstile which will then open for me to enter. We took two flights of stairs to reach the platforms in the sky. All gleaming silver and purple, a train had just arrived from Bayyappanahalli and stood there on the opposite platform as passengers disembarked. I noticed most people were doing exactly the same thing that I was: checking out the ride. The train moved, reversed and arrived at our platform 4 minutes later. We boarded the train, the doors whizzed closed and with the characteristic electric hum and whizzing, the train set out exactly at 12:10. We passed Trinity, Halasur (Ulsoor), Indiranagar (CMH Road), Swami Vivekananda Road (Old Madras Road) and reached Bayyappanahalli exactly 14 minutes later. People were standing around and talking, taking pictures, faces gleaming with pride, wonder and amazement. At Bayyappanahalli with almost everyone else, I went to the ticket counter to buy tickets for the return ride. As I had some time to spare, I bought a ticket (token) to Indiranagar, and checked out the Bayyappanahalli Terminal. I reached Indiranagar station, got out and took a ticket for M.G.Road and waited for the next train. A train arrived after 8 minutes and took me back to M.G.Road, where I disembarked and got back to my car. That was the story of my first Bangalore Metro ride.
First Impressions - From The Trains
All three trains were packed to capacity, and very few got off/on at intermediate stations. The train itself is small, with only three coaches, a row of seating on both sides with three sets of doors in each coach. Everything about the silver and purple stainless steel train is well appointed and of international standards, be it display boards, materials used, signage, seating arrangement, doors etc. Announcements are spoken out all the time in Kannada, English and Hindi. Being Standard Gauge, the train is smaller than the Delhi Metro and Indian Railways trains which are Broad Gauge. The doors are automated and has little warning display lights. All never-before seen in South India. The train draws power from a yellow third rail which runs parallel to the tracks. The train is smooth ans silent, though there is a bit of inertia when it starts off. The entire stretch is elevated and the view from the train is dramatic, pleasant, surprising and changes every kilometer. It ranges from huge concrete buildings to slums to the ubiquitous 4-story housing constructions which look like tightly packed multi-colored boxes with black Sintex tanks and small DTH dishes on top, to medium sized concrete buildings to boxes again to hutments to industry, with plenty of thick greenery everywhere. The fares range from Rs.10 to Rs.15 one-way, and there are plenty of passes available too, some shared with BMTC. Click here for details. The trains run from 0600 hrs to 2200 hrs, and might be extended to 2300 hrs. BMTC runs feeder services to most stations from surrounding areas. Oh yes, the trains are WiFi enabled and have mobile charging slots.Business Line
First Impressions - From The Stations
Of the three stations that I had been at, the Bayyappanahalli Terminal was definitely the best, maybe because it was on ground level and had lot more space at it's disposal. It huge, eminently spacious and very well laid out. It has three very spacious platforms, and there was a stationary train on the third platform in front of which people were posing for photos. Indiranagar station is extremely convenient, bang in the center of CMH Road but is a bit too high in the sky, with a long flight of stairs and a really steep escalator from ground to the first level where you swipe in and then another long flight of stairs to the platforms. The M.G.Road station is a bit congested and the platforms are rather narrow, but is breezy, wide open at both ends with a high ceiling and gives a stunning view of the city center. In fact, M.G.Road is the 'brightest' station, maybe because of more open ventilation, where as all other stations are a bit dark. Navigating the stations is a breeze with all stations having a plethora of signage, pointers and markers in all three languages. In addition to this are electronic signage boards displaying the destination of the next train and time left for it to arrive. You will never be lost. Each station "in the air" has three levels - The entry at the ground floor, an intermediate level which branches out into platforms and then the platforms themselves. Ticket counters and entry turnstiles might be located anywhere on the first two levels. All stations are spotlessly clean and the brown-yellow-gold-ivory-white-purple color scheme is easy on the eyes. Whoever has done interiors for the stations has done a commendable job!
Why Don't Metro Stations have "Facilities"?
People would equate Metro stations to Railway Stations and any other another public place where we can sit around and take it easy, as we Indians are bound to do. But that is not the case here. The Metro is not some place where can hang out and check out the sights, like a mall, to have a "good time". Metro stations are meant for travel only, for a floating crowd and not a place for leisure. It is not even like a railway station. There really is no need for food stalls, kiosks or even Medical Shops. And what business would they generate anyway? In fact, there was a ridiculous uproar earlier when people protested that there are no medical shops and seating arrangements inside Metro stations and that people will not be allowed to loiter around. Why should there be seating arrangements and tea stalls for a station where a train arrives/departs every 5 minutes? And no Metro anywhere in the world has such extravagant facilities! Dude, this is India. If these restrictions are not put in place, people will make Metro stations their homes! You are supposed to get out of the station as soon as you exit the train. That is the rule. It is high time we started implementing rules in India.
Namma Metro - Thoughts and What I Feel
I loved the trains, the stations and the service. Almost everything concerned with the Bangalore Metro is nothing less of World Class, except you know, the people who use it. The Indian traveling public still has to be taught on how to use world class facilities in world class ways. No one heeds any rules such as to stay behind the yellow line, not to stand in doorways obstructing people, how to properly operate the turnstiles etc. One person even got stuck in the turnstiles today as he loitered around after depositing his token instead of getting out of the way.
Not in years have I reached the M.G.Road Kaveri Emporium circle from Indiranagar CMH Road in 10 minutes during day time. The ride was refreshing, quick, smooth, fun and most of all, painless. And that is exactly what I and millions of others look forward to, having painless commutes across the city. Imagine the day when you can get from Electronic City to Jalahalli or from Arekere to Yelahanka or from Whitefield to Kengeri in less than 50 minutes (all which take around two and a half hours now) without breaking a sweat. Well, now we know that day will come! It might take time, but it definitely will come! Bangalore's mass transport evolution which started with the introduction of Volvo city transport buses which became a runaway hit, has now matured.
Naysayers have already started mocking and dismissing our little Metro as inconsequential. As much as this first reach is concerned, it surely will not create much of a dent in the existing traffic mess. And hopefully it will not remain an object of curiosity and novelty, and people will hopefully make use of the Metro for their commuting purposes, especially on the Indiranagar - M.G.Road stretch. And it can be saidd without doubt that the Metro will become a major tourist attraction, just like The Forum Mall has become! Anyway there is no need to pay heed to those doomsday-sayers. This is just a start, Bangalore has finally got a taste of how traveling in a World-class Metro feels like. There is lots more to come, and this small start is definitely something to feel upbeat about, and look forward to. It surely has shortcomings, but hey, let it grow! It surely will be the envy of the world one day! But only if political interference does not poke it's ugly head out again, as it happened during the inaugural run.