Udayavni Special

Bengaluru Hyperloop: New expensive rapid transit mode to reach city’s airport?


Team Udayavani, Oct 21, 2020, 1:46 PM IST

Many plans have been discussed for easing transit on a single route in the city. For many reasons, those plans are never implemented. Now, the government is looking at another expensive project – Hyperloop.

The project involves setting up poles and installing giant electromagnetic tubes on them which will carry the ‘pods.’ This project has not been implemented anywhere in the world. A study is being conducted on its possibilities in the city.

According to Virgin Hyperloop, which will implement the project, its construction and operating costs are slightly cheaper than high-speed railways. The project will cover the 30-40 kilometres from the heart of the city to the Kempegowda International Airport and will cost an estimated Rs 6,000 crore.

However, it is being questioned whether such an expensive project is needed in the face of the current economic hardship caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

There is a reason for antagonism to this project. The suburban railway project has already been approved by the Centre and will connect this same route at a cost of Rs 5,127 crore. Along with this, 56 kilometres of ‘Namma Metro’ project costing Rs 14,845 is awaiting approval from the government and the Peripheral Ring Road that will connect with the road to the airport is also been planned.

The Hyperloop project, however, will not be on the government’s expense which will only provide the land and other basic facilities for the project. Virgin Hyperloop will implement the project in partnership with others.

“These announcements of projects are diversionary tactics. The same route has previously witnessed announcements of projects such as monorail, high-speed rail and steel bridges. The government should in the end consider only that project which will be completed in the shortest time with less cost. It is doubtful that its (Hyperloop) fares will be affordable to the general public,” says railways expert Sanjeeva Dyamanna.

“Governments are somehow attracted to transit projects that claim to be completed in very less time and is popular. As a result, any political party that comes to power announces a number of such projects. When it comes to transit infrastructure, only metro, suburban railways and road transport are still prevalent around the world. We have to be mindful of this and should constitute plans for continuous improvement of these modes,” urban transport expert Ashwin Mahesh said.

Under the Suburban Railway Project to be built in four corridors, the Krantiveera Sangolli Rayanna Railway Station-KIAL-Devanahalli route was government’s ‘priority corridor.’ However, right at the time of approval of these projects government changed its priorities related to the project.

“The aim is to complete the four corridors in six years. What should be taken up as a ‘priority corridor’ is a government-level decision,” said an unnamed K-RID (Karnataka Railway Infrastructure Development Company) official.

“There is no financial problem or land problem in the implementation of the plan. The plan will be taken up soon,” said K-RID chief Amit Garg.

According to sources, the ‘Namma Metro’ project to the Kempegowda International Airport has not yet been approved. If the suburban railway takes priority over it, then metro could not be considered.

“There is too much traffic on the airport route. On the other hand, a second terminal and runway at the airport are being built. In this backdrop, the airport route should be taken up as a priority corridor,” said Citizen for Citizen convenor Rajkumar Dugar. Recently he met with the Chief Secretary TM Vijay Bhaskar and submitted a formal appeal regarding it.

24 to 26 thousand vehicles travel per hour in the peak hours between Hebbala and Kempegowda International Airport. People travelling along that route are suffering. To date, the government and local agencies have promised several projects to reduce traffic congestion. Not a single project was implemented.

No new projects have been announced since the new government came to power. Meanwhile, floods and the COVID-19 crisis have made it more difficult to back any projects presently.

Hence, it is alleged, the Hyperloop project, which was announced to be built between Mumbai and Pune in the previous government of neighbouring Maharashtra was ‘shifted’ here.

 

Why was Bengaluru, especially the KIAL route, chosen?

Rapid growth and increase in demand in the future. As development occurs, so does the demand for fuel. Hyperloop will not have that problem. It is a fast, secure system and is not expensive.

Already a suburban train, Metro is being planned. So, does the Hyperloop really matter?

Of course not. Hyperloop is very different from all other modes. It does not include stops, transfers and is not affected by weather conditions. It is also environmentally friendly. There won’t be any dangerous crossing as well. Traditional mode do not have these benefits and travellers will not be given satisfactory service, also, there will be no respite from congestion.

The airport route has already developed a lot. Where will you get the land?

The Hyperloop system is tailored to the Indian situation. Its construction requires very little land compared to the rest of the modes. Cost of travel for people will be low as we already have the demand.

Have you decided on a feasibility test?

This is yet to be decided. An appropriate route will be selected and studied. We will continue with the project after the supplementary report.

– Ryan Kelly, Vice President, Marketing, Virgin Hyperloop

 

–  Vijayakumar Chandargi

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