I went on a long motorcycle ride last Saturday morning to visit the new Bengaluru International airport to check out the progress of the project and also the connectivity and travel time.
I had last been on this side of the city almost a year ago. At that time, to call it chaotic would be an understatement, it took us almost 1 hour and 45 minutes to get to the Hebbal flyover and the airport was a further 25 kilometers beyond. This time, I started off at 5:55, so I expected it to be a lot faster. I also had a chance to look at the first two "magic box" projects. The Cauvery underpass is a joke, which could only have been conceived in Bangalore, the city of "signal on a flyover". To have a busy arterial road wind through a U-turn is sheer madness and I bet that the net traffic flow will be slower than before. Plus the underpass is so narrow, that unless you were specifically told, you'd think it was a pedestrian pathway. Heaven help Bangalore, as they are planning to have 46 more of these all over the city. Anyway, back to BIAL, the ride through the city was fantastic, the overnight rain had cleaned up the roads and the traffic was non-existent, so I reached the Hebbal flyover in 25 minutes.
Bellary Road was being widened into a 6 lane highway and the project is almost complete. Luckily for motorists, they have not built too many signals or speed bumps, so I was able to maintain a constant 70-80 kmph speed right till the turnoff to the airport.I could have gone much faster in my car.
The trumpet flyover taking you from the highway to the airport was a source of much amusement a few months ago, when they realised that it would not be ready in time. This would mean that the entire airport traffic would need to take a U-turn to get off the highway. Imagine the chaos at peak time. Luckily for Bangalore, L&T took over the contract and completed it in double quick time. The interchange was completed this week, though some final asphalting was going on and I was forced to go through the mud road on the side to get to the airport road.
The airport is around 5 km from the highway and BIAL has got a nice 4 lane road leading to it. I couldn't help think, though that it would have been better if they had made it a 6 lane road to avoid any congestion. They do have space to expand, if required. I couldn't get too close to the main terminal building as it is still not open to the public and I didn't want any panga with the security guards. It's definitely larger than the HAL airport, but still looks much small that I expected. I was also quite disappointed to see the car park, they claim a capacity of 1500 cars, but it doesn't seem much bigger than the old airport car park.
Overall, everything had a not-yet-completely-finished look to it. I'm sure the airport guys will claim that they were ready on time, but secretly must have been quite happy to have been given the extra month to get things 100% complete.
The biggest talking point so far has been the travel time to the airport. I started at 5:55 and reached an hour later. On the return journey, I took the longer route via the Outer Ring Road and still reached in an hour and 15 minutes. My feeling is that the journey from Hebbal onwards is unlikely to be more than 30-45 minutes even in peak hour, so the bulk of the time is going to be getting to Hebbal. I feel that the IT crowd and others that protest are extremely hypocritical and their statements and are only looking at their own selfish interests and not the overall best interests of Bangalore. So, when people in Electronics City complain about the 2 hour journey, I don't think they even consider that when the airport was in HAL, it would take people in Hebbal and Rajajinagar atleast 2 hours to get there. The fact is that any new airport could only have been constructed far away from the city and in a sprawling city like Bangalore, that will always mean that the distance and travel times vary significantly.