Train to Bengaluru airport: More employees than flyers for now

Low on frequency and trains, will the just launched airport railway line from the new halt station scale up eventually to beckon workers and air passengers in big numbers? The line does have the potential to help at least 25,000 airport employees, but how many travellers will make that switch?

Beyond the euphoric first-train journey with a hyper-low trip fare of Rs 10, troubling questions remain on on-time performance and in-commute delays. These, say urban rail experts, will be critical for air passengers with strict flight schedules and workers in multiple airport shifts.

Once the Kempegowda International Airport’s (KIA) second terminal (T2) is commissioned, the passenger numbers are bound to rise. But this will also mean a corresponding increase in the number of employees and their transport issues.

“For every one million passengers, 1,000 employees are at the airport. While the average penetration rate for passengers to use scheduled public transport is 18% to 20%, it’s much higher for employees. I would estimate over 75%,” notes Devesh Agarwal, former chairman, Bangalore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCIC).

Currently, most of the employee transport is met by contracted bus services. “One million passengers would result in about 200,000 trips per year. One thousand employees results in 50% to 75% of (1,000 X 300 working days X 2 trips per day). So, a minimum 300,000 trips per year. The target audience for a Commuter Rail Service (CRS) should be the employees,” he says.

But what would make the service attractive for air passengers? On Monday, few travellers were even aware of the trains although the Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) had arranged free shuttle services between the Halt Station and multiple airport hubs including the terminal and cargo points.

BIAL officials were confident that the demand would pick up slowly in the coming weeks. Informed about the rail option, many passengers felt they may shift if the train timings are synced to their flight timings. But they were also concerned about the availability of timely last-mile connectivity once the train reached the city.

Once the airport line is electrified, double-tracked with signalling upgrades and a crossing station facility at Doddajala, experts have proposed the introduction of exclusive Airport trains with Shatabdi-like features. Flyovers could then even check in their luggages at Baiyappanahalli, KSR, Bengaluru Cantonment or Yeshwantpur railway stations for a seamless rail commute to the airport.

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