Sunday, August 24, 2008

Let the Metro glide in, the city is waiting...

Let the Metro glide in, the city is waiting...

To those of us who keep cribbing about Bangalore’s growing vehicle population, chaotic traffic, jams and road rage, here is some good news. About 70% of car users say they will switch over to Metro Rail once it’s ready, according to a survey conducted by Biodiversity Conservation India. There is a message for the government here. That it should accord highest priority to Metro, clear all hurdles, speed up work and fix stringent deadlines. Take up both underground and elevated work simultaneously and on a war footing. Only Metro, it appears, can help decongest Bangalore.
That car owners too are waiting to dump their vehicles to ride the Metro for fast, smooth, safe and stressless commuting is, indeed, welcome news. It will help save on fuel and reduce pollution. Bangalore’s car population, mostly with single occupancy, has been growing at an alarming rate. The city’s narrow and poorly maintained roads cannot take the pressure. In top cities like Singapore, Bangkok, London, Paris and New York, Metro is the main mode of transport. Bangalore too, being a global city, badly needs a well-connected Metro. Once traffic starts flowing underground or on elevated tracks, the pressure on roads will ease.
Most two-wheeler riders and autorickshaw commuters too are certain to hop on to the Metro. Both constitute a big chunk of road users. Riding a twowheeler in chock-a-block traffic is not only stressful but also dangerous. Statistics show most road accident victims are two-wheeler riders. About autorickshaws, the less said the better. Taxis have added to the chaos. These modes of transport will become second options once the Metro comes. Roads then may be freer. And air and noise pollution will drop.
To ensure this, the government has to take quick measures. At the pace with which the work is progressing now, it will take years before we can start using the Metro. Let Metro top the agenda for Bangalore’s development. Fix a deadline for each of the phases. As and when a phase is ready, open it up for use. By this, some areas will be cleared of all the mess. Take MG Road, for instance, which is beyond recognition these days. With the boulevard gone, barricades up, continuous digging and hammering going on, the road has lost its soul. Why doesn’t the government speed up work on this stretch and restore its former glory?
Our politicians, bureaucrats and engineers must visit Delhi and find out how work on the Metro is going. Several phases are open to public. Work on the rest is in full swing. Delhiites are zooming across from one corner to another. A trip from Connaught Place to Chandni Chowk takes just 10 minutes, whereas on congested roads it takes 45 minutes. The highly efficient E Sreedharan is at the helm there. Why doesn’t the government take his help? He is a no-nonsense and hands-on guy. Sticks to deadlines. Delivers as promised.
The Delhi Metro also connects well to the airport, rail and bus stations. The connectivity to the airport is so good that you can soon buy your ticket at select Metro stations, called City Airport Terminals (CAT), check in baggage, collect the boarding pass and, if you have time, shop there before you take a dedicated Metro train to reach either the domestic or international airport. The CAT will be equipped with specialized scanners to check baggage, which will be delivered to you at the destination.
In Bangalore too, the Metro should connect the airport, rail and bus stations for the convenience of travellers. Road travel should be minimized. Metro will be affordable and faster. The government should put the project in the safe hands of someone like Sreedharan and give him a free hand to finish the project at the earliest. The IT capital will then sport a new look. Commuting will be a lively experience.
Crack the whip now over cracked roads
Come monsoon and Bangalore’s roads are back to their worst. Question the corporation authorities. You get the stock answer: “Wait till the rainy season ends, we will then repair the roads.” But why do roads develop cracks and potholes after every rain? The real reason is one of the worst-kept secrets — there is rampant corruption in road construction. Contractors in connivance with corrupt officials keep doing a shabby job with a view to getting the road repair/relaying job year after year. Public money is thus siphoned off. Are those at the helm listening? How about cracking the whip?


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