Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New airport takes off amid turbulence

New airport takes off amid turbulence

Anil Kumar Sastry

— Photo: AP

Complaints galore: The Joint Committee of the State Legislature is yet to submit its report on the amenities at the Bengaluru International Airport.

BANGALORE: The opening of the Bengaluru International Airport (BIA) in May this year ushered in a new era in air travel with BIA being the first airport of international standards in the State.

However, the long drive, particularly from the southern parts, the user development fee, and amenities at the BIA being not up to scratch came in for considerable flak.

The opening of the BIA itself was ridden in controversy amid a fierce debate whether to keep the old HAL Airport open or not. Finally, the airport opened to commercial traffic on May 23 amid several shortcomings. After much sound and fury by air passengers about the facilities and the general perception that the airport was not truly international, the State Legislature constituted a Joint Committee to study the case. The Committee is yet to submit the report.

The BIA’s distance from the city made the connectivity issue all the more pressing. The Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) had promised signal-free travel to the airport by working on traffic junctions and widening the Bangalore-Bellary Road within its jurisdiction.

The first of the improved junctions, the magic box underpass, was opened at the Cauvery Junction. Till now, the BBMP has completed seven such projects while the one at the Sanjaynagar junction is under progress. Also, BBMP opened two pedestrian subways — near the CBI junction and the Hebbal Police Station.

While the high speed rail link to BIA from the city is still waiting government clearance, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has proposed to build an elevated expressway from Hebbal to BIA. The State Government’s earlier proposal of an expressway appears to have been shelved.

Foreseeing the requirement for an efficient transport system to BIA from the city, the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) conceived the idea of operating Volvo buses from different parts of the city to the BIA. Named Vayu Vajra, these coaches are specially designed with space for luggage.

Even so, there are any number of private vehicles and taxis ferrying the passengers and their number is rising as are accidents en route. While 84 people had died in 79 accidents within the entire North-East Traffic Sub Division in 2007, 94 people died in 89 accidents from January 1 to December 25, 2008 just on the Bangalore-Bellary Road. BIA’s opening resulted in a quantum leap in traffic on this road.

While 15 people died in as many fatal accidents till April 2008, in May there were five fatal accidents and six deaths; eight accidents and 11 deaths in June; 14 accidents and as many deaths in July; 11 accidents and as many deaths in August; 12 accidents and as many deaths in September; eight accidents and eight deaths in October; nine accidents and 10 deaths in November and seven accidents and as many deaths as on December 25.

Pedestrians on the stretch between Hebbal and the trumpet interchange have become vulnerable as it allows vehicles to drive at high speed.

Lack of safe pedestrian crossings at many places, including the Kodigehalli junction, Byatarayanapura, Kogilu junction and other places have also contributed to pedestrian fatalities.


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