Namma Metro inside Bangalore's belly

Namma Metro has struggled through numerous debates, delays, cost escalations, technological barriers, land acquisition, resettlement issues and more. Finally, as a ray of hope, Bangalore witnessed a minuscule part of it operational.

Published: 29th September 2012 08:37 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th September 2012 10:15 AM   |  A+A-


Namma Metro has struggled through numerous debates, delays, cost escalations, technological barriers, land acquisition, resettlement issues and more. Finally, as a ray of hope, Bangalore witnessed a minuscule part of it operational. But the ambitious project is still facing all these issues, and while the 33. 48-kilometre elevated stretch is staring at innumerable hurdles, the 8. 82-kilometre underground stretch has its own woes.

While the work on the underground section with its seven underground stations is going on, the work below Vidhana Soudha is going on at a snail’s pace.  The work at the important section has slowed down because of opposition to relocation of the Ambedkar statue which is still standing erect amid the ‘heat and dust’ of gigantic boring machines while the other statues have been shifted to safety. Even work on the Majestic section has just commenced as it needed the sanction of the Union Railway Ministry on the issue of a dispute over railway land of 23,000 square metres and its payment.

According to Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) Chief Engineer and PRO, B L Y Chavan, except for Vidhana Soudha section, work is progressing as per schedule and the underground corridor of Namma Metro will be completed by December 2014.  “Nearly 45 per cent of work that includes tunnelling, excavation, ramp and station construction has been completed in the UG North- South corridor while only 15 per cent has been completed in the UG East-West corridor,” the CE said.  For the entire underground work, six tunnel boring machines are needed and till date, three tunnel boring machines (TBM1-Helen, TBM2-Margarita, TBM-3) have been deployed in various sections from Minsk Square to Magadi Road (4.42 kms) while three Earth Pressure Balanced Machines are yet to commence work from Swastik to K R Market (4 kms).

 Namma Metro has seven UG Stations which are Cubbon Park, Vidhana Soudha, Sir M.  Visveshwaraya, City Railway Station, Chickpet, K R Market & Kempegowda.  In the East-West UG section, work on East Ramp is in progress while regarding the four stations of Cubbon Park, Vidhana Soudha, Central College and Bangalore City Stations, soil and rock excavations is going on with the completion of sidewalls in some of them.

 As far as tunnelling in this section is concerned, both the tunnels between Majestic and Sir M Visveswaraya stations (Central College) have been completed.  Both tunnel boring machines, TBM 1 (Helen) and TBM 2 (Margarita) have started tunnelling between Sir MV and Vidhana Soudha station.  Helen has shown a progress of 365 m while Margarita has progressed to 151 m.  In comparison, the TBM 3 has completed work at Minsk Square.

 In the North-South UG section, work on North Ramp has commenced only recently after the Railways handed over the land. Here, secant piling (drilled shafts that interlock to form a continuous wall) work is going on while in the South Ramp, secant piling works has been completed and excavation is going on in full swing.  Of the three Earth Pressure Balanced Machines that have been ordered, one is from specialist underground excavation company SELI while the other two are from Herrenknecht, German manufacturers of mechanised tunnelling equipment.

 “One of the TBMs, which arrived from China on 17th May will begin work as the assembly work is still going on and it will become operational by October end. The second machine that reached on August 23rd will still take time for assembly and operation,” said Chavan.

 At Chikpet, the shifting of unchartered utilities is still going on and the excavations for the station has also commenced while at City Market, much work has been completed.  At UG Majestic Inter-change Station, the secant piling work is in full swing with the excavations still going on.

Securing Namma Metro

To address the operational, safety and security needs of the city, the Metro Rail system of India’s fastest-growing metropolitan area has implemented video surveillance solutions.  BMRCL has successfully launched security solutions including full implementation at the train’s Operations Control Centre (OCC) and across six Metro stations.

 Using NICE systems’, a leader in software solutions, IP video surveillance and analytics, Namma Metro is enhancing passenger safety, securing its train lines, and ensuring efficient operations while also meeting the necessary compliance requirements.  While BMRCL projects full operational capacity in 2014, Namma Metro is expected to serve 1.2 million passengers daily by 2013, with a capacity of 40,000 peak hour peak direction trips.  In addition to the advanced video management system, monitoring the metro stations and depot areas, the solution being deployed includes video analytics to provide automatic intrusion detection for specified locations along the tracks and in restricted areas.

 It will also enable crowd control by monitoring overcrowding and queue wait time at the various stations.  With NICE’s video analytics, any surveillance camera can be configured with many predefined functionalities, including operating within specific time ranges to help optimise resources.  This solution also enables system access by multiple agencies to facilitate collaboration between Namma Metro operators and the police.

 “Partnering was critical due to its domain expertise in public safety and mass transit systems around the world.  Through the user acceptance testing process, they have met our requirement to provide the Bangalore Metro with seamless surveillance of the Metro railway stations and passengers, mitigating operational, safety and situational risk,”said A. S.  Shankar, Chief Engineer (S&T) at BMRCL.  “The completion of the first important milestone at BMRCL is a strong testament to the joint partnership and collaboration fostered between NICE and BMRCL,” said Guy Yaniv, General Manager, Surveillance Solutions Division at NICE.

 Security solutions are deployed worldwide in transportation systems, critical infrastructures and city centers.  NICE deployments include solutions for securing the Beijing Metro, India’s Parliament House and global icons such as the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty etc.

Are underground Metros viable ?

Bangalore has more than 50 per cent rocky terrain comprising hard granite rocks which is conducive for tunnelling with minimum encasement. But only 20 per cent of the Metro project is underground as the project will become more expensive with additional cost of the project for 26. 30 km of elevated corridor, if taken underground, will be Rs 4707 crore.  The cost of Bangalore Metro is estimated at Rs 157 cr/km for elevated while it is more than double at Rs 336 Cr/km for underground including property acquisition, escalation, interest during construction etc.  This makes the project more unviable, calling for increased financial assistance and a prohibitive and unaffordable fare structure.  Although not much of land or public property is required for this corridor, an area of 230mx20m is required for each underground station.

 Therefore, for 24 (elevated) stations, an area of 1,10,400 sqm (27 acres) of land is required.  Even for underground stations, some land is required at the surface for entry and exit points, ventilation shafts, etc.  The underground stations spaced about one kilometre involves the buildings above the underground portion on the surface which have to be razed to the ground.

 The completion of an underground station takes nearly four years and due to this, the building may not be fit for occupation and so heavy compensation may have to be given here as well.  Even in case of underground corridors, depots are needed for which huge areas of land on surface is required.  This cannot be avoided.

 Even now out of the total acquisition of 228 acres, 152 acres (66 per cent) is for depots and balance 76 acres (33 per cent) is for stations and bends.  One needs to remember that in the UG sections, the operation and maintenance costs go up considerably for providing illumination, ventilation, airconditioning, etc.

 Apart from this, the safety precautions and measures has to be of higher order.  The elevated corridor is more visible and any sabotage activity can be more easily spotted and tackled and so, the underground portions pose more security risks.  To minimise these security risks, even now, the 6.70 km underground tunnelling that is being planned is with concrete lining of minimum safe thickness.

 Hence, considering all the above issues, Namma Metro is being constructed as an ‘Elevated corridor’ in most of the reaches and underground only in the Central Business District of Bangalore where it is not possible to put up long elevated structures.


The Karnataka government’s inaction and delaying tactics on shifting of Ambedkar’s statue and continuing opposition by Dalit organisations have delayed works of the underground Vidhana Soudha station by four months. The controversy rages for the past one year, as the organisations have been opposing the temporary relocation of the statue.

 On the other hand, the Metro Rail authorities, tired of the frequent delays, have gone ahead with the construction works albeit very slowly and using alternative methods, so as to minimise any damage to the statue.  Speaking to City Express, the BMRCL Managing Director, N Sivasailam said, “Since no decision has been taken on shifting of the statue till now, we are going ahead with the works but are cutting the rocks very slowly so that the statue does not sustain any kind of damage.”

Although the statue has been encased but not in any kind of metal casing, the construction work is progressing very slowly.  The Metro chief said, “The work will now be delayed by four months as we have to take extreme precaution when cutting the hard granite rocks abounding in this area.  However, we would have preferred if the statue had been shifted,” he opined.

 Sivasailam said that there would definitely be extra costs involved since the procedure and the method of work was now different from what was earlier planned.  In the past, two other statues, Netaji Subash Chandra Bose and Jawaharlal Nehru, were shifted to facilitate the Metro tunnelling work and they have been preserved in the premises of the Vidhana Soudha.

 The remaining one, now precariously standing amidst the heat and dust of the tunnel boring machines is that of B R Ambedkar.  This 15.6 feet high panchloha statue was installed on 19th August, 1981 by former Chief Minister S R Gundu Rao.


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