BENGALURU: I drive to the Vidhana Soudha on Thursday, hoping to click some pictures ahead of the launch of a Namma Metro stretch that serves a VIP corridor.
This is an underground section, and I have to climb down a flight of stairs to the platform. To my luck, the shiny purple train is all set for one of its last trial runs. The 4-km stretch between Karnataka’s secretariat and City Railway Station is open to everyone from Friday.
It connects two operational stretches and extends the East-West line from Byappanahalli to Mysuru Road (Nayandahalli). At 3.30 pm, the train quietly rolls out of Ambedkar, as the Vidhana Soudha station is called.
The three coaches are airconditioned, providing comfort from the scorching heat. This year, Bengaluru has earned additional notoriety for its heat, the mercury touching the highest ever in the city’s recorded history. The Metro is going to be loved for many things, and airconditioning is certainly one of them.
Stand and Ride: Most passengers travel standing, but the train, with a capacity of 1,000 commuters, does have some seats for pregnant women, and the ailing and elderly.
You get a minute at each station, and announcements are made in Kannada and English.
Let it be said right away. The ride is a breeze. If you are used to the bumper-to-bumper traffic in the heart of Kempe Gowda’s Bengaluru, you will feel gratitude for the Metro, even if it is five years late by its own estimate.
“It’s marvellous,” says a constable, in English. This is globalised Bengaluru, after all. He is holding a dog on a leash, doing a final security recce.
“Actually, this is about 20 years overdue,” muses a senior police officer in charge of the security. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah is among the bigwigs slated to ride the Metro on Friday.
The stop after Ambedkar is called Visvesvaraya because it is near the government-run University Visvesvaraya College of Engineering. This is a junction hallowed by memories of the visionary engineer, who also founded the Jayachamarajendra Polytechnic across the road.
Not much is visible, though, since we are inside a tunnel. Next comes the Kempe Gowda station, near Shanthala Silk House. We then reach the City Railway Station, the biggest of all Metro stations, but we can’t make out much except for what is illuminated on the underground platform.
This stretch honours many revered names. Kempe Gowda, who built the old pete areas here and dreamt of a vibrant Bengaluru, would have been the happiest to see the city taking this leap forward.
The train emerges into a warm flood of light as its tunnel section ends after the City station before it heads towards Magadi Road. We are now at a high elevation, and the cityscape and the traffic are visible on either side.
We have crossed Hosahalli, Vijayanagara, Attiguppe and Deepanjali Nagar to reach Mysuru Road at 3.50 pm. It has been a 20-minute ride. The stretch from Magadi Road to this terminal, popularly called Nayandahalli, is already operational, but we notice just a couple of commuters boarding the train at each station. That is going to change on Friday.
The loco-pilot walks to the engine at the rear. The trip back also takes 20 minutes. It is still early days, and the train is not zipping, like the one on the Byappanahalli-MG Road line. Yet, this ride saves you a lot of time: you would take at least 45 minutes to an hour on this stretch during peak hours.