Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation’s survey for Cantonment metro station has created panic among the residents of Maangalya apartments in Benson Town. In part 1 of this story, Citizen Matters had reported that the mid-tunnel shaft between Cantonment and Pottery Town stations will come up at Maangalya apartment site, if Cantonment metro station is built at its original location as per the Detailed Project Report (DPR).
The shaft is needed because the length of this stretch would be above 1.5 kms. The DPR had mentioned a specific location for the metro station — right opposite Cantonment railway station’s main entrance, under its parking lot — to allow easy integration between metro and railways. Passengers from metro can cross over to railways, and vice versa, easily if the station is built here.
If the station is instead at the playground in Bamboo Bazaar, which BMRC had proposed as the alternative, the distance between stations would reduce and the shaft won’t be needed. Residents of Maangalya apartments have been holding campaigns demanding that the station be located at Bamboo Bazaar playground, to avoid displacement. They have had meetings with BMRC too.
Sandhya Chandran, an apartment resident, says: “BMRC has explained to us the technical problems in building the shaft here, and the damage it will cause. The point of underground metro is to minimise displacements, but this alignment defeats that purpose. Other apartments and establishments, and people who come to work there, will be affected too.”
BMRC officials had also informed residents that two approach roads to Maangalya apartment would have to be doubled in width, which would displace residents there too. And that boring in the rocky terrain of Benson Town would damage many buildings. Residents worry there would be damage to buildings similar to that in Chickpet last year during metro construction there.
Campaigns to shift location to Bamboo Bazaar ground
Maangalya apartment residents started a physical signature campaign in Benson Town recently, and an online petition on Change.org. Both campaigns have received 4000-5000 signatures so far, and the physical petition has been submitted to BMRC. These campaigns demand that BMRC revert to the Bamboo Bazaar station location. “That alignment would not displace anyone, and is shorter and cheaper. Why insist on the original location when this alternative exists?” Sandhya asks.
Benson Town RWA, which has informal membership of over 100 apartments, is also supporting the campaign. Joel Samuel, Founder and Secretary of the RWA, says, “People are worried that buildings may get damaged, and that road blockages will cause severe traffic congestion for the next 4-5 years. Hence the demand for the station at Bamboo Bazaar. But we have no problem if the alignment goes through Benson Town itself without the shaft, and without causing any displacement or damages.” Samuel says that the exact scale of damage is unclear, as there has been no formal communication from BMRC.
Rajkumar Dugar, a member of the citizens’ group advocating for original station location, points out that the DPR does not single out Benson Town as having rocky terrain. “It mentions the entire phase 2 as having rocky terrain, and not specifically Benson Town. The alignment is also going to go under Tannery Road which is extremely crowded. So why is BMRC creating fear about Benson Town alone?” he asks. The DPR mentions that geo-technical investigations had been done in 67 locations in the phase 2 alignment.
Vasant Rao declined Citizen Matters’ request to get access to the technical personnel who are doing the current survey for Cantonment station. BMRC’s survey is as per state governments’ orders, because of citizens’ groups earlier protests against changing station location.
Why is station location so important?
Cantonment railway station has daily footfall of 30,000-40,000, while metro phase 2 was supposed to carry 2.4 lakh daily passengers by 2016 as per DPR. So station location affects a large number of commuters.
If metro station is at original location, tens of metres opposite the railway station’s main entrance:
- A subway can connect metro station to railway station’s main entrance. Easy cross over for metro and railway passengers is possible.
- Subway can be extended to other platforms of railway station
- Metro station will be integrated with the nearby bus stop, and with railway station’s ticket counter, auto stand and parking lot, allowing metro users to use these facilities
- Metro station located along a major road
If the station is at Bamboo Bazaar playground, BMRC proposes to connect it to the tail end of Cantonment railway platform 1, by a travelator. Yet, in this scenario:
- Passengers should walk longer to cross over. Total distance from railway station to Bamboo Bazaar station is much higher than that to original station location. Dugar estimates this at 800 metres and 100 metres respectively, as per Google Maps
- Within railway platform, main entrance (where original metro station connects) will be closer for passengers than the travelator (based on calculation from station midpoint). This means, platform would be crowded as more people move towards travelator
- Besides, more trains stop closer to the main entrance, and far away from travelator. Especially, short distance trains having 8-12 coaches only. Currently 24 out of the 104 trains passing through Cantonment station are short distance trains. Same will be the case with upcoming suburban trains.
- BMRC says travelator can’t be extended to other platforms. But the railway station has only one foot overbridge, which could get overcrowded
- Longer walk for metro passengers to railway ticket counter located near main entrance. Around 6100 tickets are issued at the counter daily
- Metro station not located along a main road, and won’t be integrated with bus stop, auto stand and parking facility.
Integrating multiple transport modes is globally recognised as a way to get more people to use public transport, and to reduce private vehicles on the road. In line with this, centre’s Metro Rail Policy, 2017 mandates metro’s integration with other transport modes. Integration is a major component under Smart Cities Mission too, and cities like Bhubaneswar are already doing this.
Deepak Sanghvi, a commuter at Cantonment railway station, says, “Passengers alighting from trains may use metro only it is 100-200 metres away. They may not walk more with luggage.” Dugar’s change.org campaign demanding metro station at original location has over 42,800 signatures now.
Solution to the conundrum
The citizens’ group insisting on the original location of metro station, also says that displacement should be avoided. They had questioned if the shaft proposed at Maangalya can be located elsewhere instead, and had identified three locations 100-200 m away from the apartment.
But it is unclear if the rules allow this. The mid-tunnel shaft is needed as per United State’s NFPA-130-2010 fire safety standards that BMRCL has adopted. A model design basis report issued by Railway Board to metro MDs this February specifies the rule. It says that, in cases where mid-tunnel shaft is needed, the distance from the end of station to the shaft should be within 762 metres.
Dugar says that this distance excludes the platform length of the Cantonment and Pottery Town stations, as the calculation is from the end of stations. “Given this, the distance between stations reduces from 1618 to 1400-odd metres,” he says. According to a BMRCL official who wanted to remain anonymous, the shaft is located exactly at the midpoint at 700 metres, at Maangalya.
However, Dugar and another member of the citizens’ group Sanjeev Dyamannavar, say that the shaft need not be located exactly at 700 m. They say 762 metres is meant to be the maximum distance that passengers have to walk during an emergency. “This is what we gathered from our research – that the shaft only has to be at the walkable distance of 762 metres from any location of train breakdown,” says Dyamannavar.
But the Railway Board report clearly mentions that 762 metres should be the maximum distance between the station end and shaft; the distance cannot exceed this. So it is unclear if the shaft can be located 800 metres away or more from Cantonment metro station, as the citizen group proposes.
Many options remain unexplored
Dyamannavar says there is ambiguity about the standard itself, and that BMRC has to clarify their interpretation of the rule. When Citizen Matters asked BMRC Managing Director Pradeep Singh Kharola to clarify on the rule a few days ago, he declined to comment. Kharola is not in BMRC anymore.
Other alternatives by citizens’ group include eliminating the shaft altogether. “Shaft is needed only if the distance between stations is above 1.5 kms, here the distance is only 1618 metres. It’s a borderline case. If this distance can be reduced below 1.5 kms, shaft won’t be needed,” says Dugar. He proposes a slight shift of about 20 metre in the location of 2-3 stations, which would reduce alignment length. “Another option is to increase the station platform length – like in Majestic metro – which would reduce distance between ends of stations,” he says.
He and Sanjeev – both engineers – have a third option too. They have made drawings of a new alignment in which the Cantonment station is moved slightly, with the alignment passing along – not under – the railway station, and then going towards Queens Road to Pottery Town station. “This alignment will be below 1.5 kms, and Benson Town will be completed avoided. If BMRC can consider the Bamboo Bazaar alignment that deviates from the DPR, why can’t this alignment be considered too?,” asks Dugar.
The citizens’ group has had a meeting with BMRC about three months ago. After they submitted a memorandum to Minister K J George, he agreed to facilitate another meeting of the group with BMRC, but Dugar says that there has been no response from George’s office since then. However, Vasanth Rao, Chief PRO at BMRC, says that citizens would not have the technical knowledge to make engineering decisions. Kharola refused to comment on whether consultations with citizens could be held.
Dyamannavar says that, in any case, it is up to BMRC to identify options that will avoid demolition of private property. The DPR too has adopted the principle of minimising displacement of people. The question is whether BMRC will break its silence, and consider alternatives that benefit the larger public while avoiding displacements.
Errata: The story had earlier mentioned that Minister K J George was present during the meeting between BMRC and citizens’ group. George was not present at the meeting. The copy has been revised to reflect the fact.