October 16, 2023
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether a tunnel road network can decongest Bengaluru. We also look at the preparation for the National Games in Goa, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Can a tunnel road network decongest Bengaluru?
For a stand-up comedian performing in Bengaluru, there are three standard jokes: The airport is too far; Sambhar is too sweet; Nice weather, but the traffic is too much!
When Trevor Noah came to the city a couple of weeks back, he got to see the third joke instead of potentially performing it (had there been no tech issues). Bengaluru came to a halt taking up to three hours to traverse six kilometres and school children reached home as late as 9 pm.
But to tackle Bengaluru’s infamous traffic, the state’s Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar has picked up a project out of a sci-fi movie challenging perhaps even Elon Musk’s ‘The Boring Company’ with an ambitious world’s largest underground tunnel road network. Can this be the cure for the city’s traffic? Or would it be another bottomless void for taxpayer money adding only to the repertoire of Bengaluru-related stand-up cliched jokes?
On August 4 this year, the Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC) submitted its report with suggestions to curb Bengaluru’s traffic menace. The plan suggested allocating ₹25 crore for junction improvements and ₹8.9 crore to build footpaths around the city. In addition to these long-term plans, the ISEC also submitted short-term proposals such as implementing adaptive traffic signal systems that adjust the duration of red and green signals based on the density of vehicles, thereby enhancing traffic flow. However, the Karnataka government, having received several inputs from industry leaders at the ‘Brand Bengaluru’ summit, has decided to instead build an ambitious, Singapore-styled Tunnel Highway Network.
Shivakumar has announced that the “global” tenders for building the tunnel roads would be called in 45 days, which is also the time given to the eight consultants to devise an infrastructure plan to decongest traffic in Bengaluru. In the next 45 days, consultants are expected to conduct a traffic survey, take into account site conditions and review ongoing and future metro projects before suggesting either tunnel roads or elevated corridors.
This is not the first time that such ideas have been floated to ease Bengaluru’s traffic woes. Earlier proposals along similar lines had included plans for a 63 km-long tunnel with a three-lane bi-directional structure across the city. However, the project was shelved due to public uproar and potential construction colliding with the already active Metro Rail construction.
A team led by Shivakumar now plans a trip to Singapore to understand their tunnel roads and also examine their feasibility. The total length of this network is supposed to be 92.195 kilometres built at ₹453 crore per kilometer! For now, the government is likely to bear 40% of the project cost, while the executing agency (Bangalore Development Authority) will fund the rest. In such an arrangement, the state could potentially end up paying ₹2,000 crore every year for 15 years.
There are internal issues with a tunnel system such as this one being ideal for smaller cities only. Bengaluru itself is in a good place traffic-wise right now as tech corridors have now received metro connectivity with the BMTC (Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation) also getting an overnight transformation due to the Shakti scheme.
VIEW: Building ‘Brand Bengaluru’
Bengaluru suffers a loss of ₹19,725 crore per year due to traffic congestion. The city’s average speed during peak hours trickles down to 10-18 kmph and it takes up to half an hour to traverse a distance of as little as 10 km. Upon completion, the tunnel network promises to solve all these issues, if integrated properly with public transportation, bicycle lanes, and urban planning. The tunnel would also become the world’s longest tunnel network giving a lift to ‘Brand Bengaluru’.
The city of Bengaluru is infamous for its chokepoints. Underground tunnels can help decongest such junctions if planned in a way that allows commuters to go from one point to another without entering core areas of the city where such choking occurs. If these chokepoints are avoided, the overall traffic of the city would automatically improve.
While improving public transport is touted as a panacea to Bengaluru’s woes, data and global examples indicate otherwise. The draft Master Plan of Bengaluru 2031, prepared by the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), predicts a further decrease in public transport usage in the city from the current 47% to 36% of the population, thus necessitating infrastructure catering to private vehicles. The city of London, on the other hand, was the first to get underground rail in 1863 and has since kept expanding. Today it spans 470 kilometres and serves 50 lakh people a day. Yet London is at the top of the heaviest traffic congestion index list.
Technological advancements today ensure that such a project in Bengaluru would be much easier than underground projects taken elsewhere in the past. Multiple tunnel boring machines (TBMs) allow us to dig up to 300 metres a day and have been a success in Singapore, Malaysia and the Mumbai twin tunnel project. Even before an official tender was floated, several international companies from Israel, Singapore, and China had already expressed interest in the project, thus indicating its potential.
COUNTERVIEW: ‘Tunnel’ vision
One of the most essential criticisms of a tunnel project by mobility experts includes pointing out that much like flyovers of the past, tunnel roads will just reduce traffic from point A to point B where the structure comes up. Huge traffic would still pile up on both ends of the tunnel (entry/exit point) rendering the concept useless.
Moreover, a tunnel road will have a capacity to carry about 1,500 people per hour. Whereas metros along similar parameters could carry 60,000 people per hour, suburban rail about 90,000 people and even a low-cost BRTS (Bus Rapid Transport System) introduced on existing arterial surface roads can enhance capacity up to 45,000 people per hour. This questions the returns on the investment for the tunnel project.
A tunnel system also only caters to cars and private vehicles. Close to 50% of Bengaluru’s populace depends on public transport for commuting and cars constitute only 10% of Benagluru’s total traffic. Tunnel roads are by their very design anti-public commuting as they require non-stop cruise driving. Whereas a bus route has many stops along the way.
The project also has safety concerns. As tunnel roads are closed, in the event of accidents, it would become hard to carry the injured to a hospital in time. The accidents will also again generate massive traffic and vehicular pile-ups in such a case. Bengaluru’s earthquake seismic activity classification has also been on the increase over the years and therefore, it might not be a wise idea to shake the foundations of Bengaluru with TBMs. The city’s insufficient drainage system also poses a flooding challenge for these tunnels. Earlier this year, the city witnessed a woman’s death after her car got stuck in a flooded underpass.
While Bengaluru’s administrators plan a Singapore trip to study the tunnels further, Singapore itself abandoned its tunnel road project in 2017 citing its enhanced public transit system. Bengaluru should perhaps focus on the same as building for private vehicles is only a stopgap solution for an ever-increasing number of vehicles. Only a robust public transport fleet can decongest the city.
- Can tunnel roads really fix Bengaluru’s traffic? – The Hindu
- Tunnel roads get green light, while metro faces red tape in Bengaluru – Deccan Herald
- Bengaluru: 63-Km Mega Tunnel Among Proposals to Decongest Hebbal Flyover – Times Now
- How to decongest Bengaluru roads? ISEC, mobility expert submit reports – moneycontrol
- Pitfalls of progress – Bangalore Mirror
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) A tunnel road network can decongest Bengaluru.
b) A tunnel road network cannot decongest Bengaluru.
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🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Chandni Chowk redevelopment struggle (Delhi) – The redevelopment of the Chandni Chowk stretch has been hit by delays due to unpaid salaries to the Civil Defence volunteers since March. A private housekeeping and sanitation company has withdrawn due to unpaid dues of ₹5 crore. A public works department official said there is a shortage of funds.
Why it matters: According to the Chandi Chowk Sarv Vyapar Mandal, motorised vehicles continue to ply on the pedestrian zones during the prohibited 9 am – 9 pm period. It has resulted in traffic and congestion. The decorative guards on the central verge of the road are broken in several spots. The main road is crowded with cycle rickshaws leaving little room for people to walk.
Additional duty for teachers (Tamil Nadu) – Teachers at several model schools across the state have raised their concerns about deputation at model schools for two to three days a week. They said the additional responsibilities would make it difficult for them as it involves managing two schools. They aren’t able to complete portions in both schools and are demanding the department stick to its earlier promise that only those who are willing would be posted.
Why it matters: Model schools are operated by the school education department across 38 districts to provide special coaching to the best-performing class 11 and 12 students. Many of them don’t have permanent teachers. The number of model schools increased this year. These schools also provide coaching for entrance exams like NEET and JEE.
Longest Dussehra celebration (Chhattisgarh) – The world’s longest Dussehra celebration began in the state’s Bastar district. The 75-day celebration will be in accordance with a 600-year-old ritual where it’s believed the goddess Kachhin grants permission to the ‘Raj Parivar’ of the district to begin the festivities. The festival is celebrated by honouring the ‘Mahishasur Mardini Adishakti’.
Why it matters: The region’s tribal community play an important role in the celebrations, and different rituals are performed across the 75 days. The festivities begin with the ‘Kalash Sthapna’ and ‘Rath yatra’. Dussehra is celebrated on the tenth day of the Navratri festival and signifies the triumph of good over evil.
Preparing for the national games (Goa) – With two weeks till the 37th National Games, infrastructure across all venues is in a race against time for athletes and officials. From Navelim in South Goa to Duler in North Goa, dressing rooms and washrooms in some places are being hastily readied. The Manohar Parrikar Indoor stadium in Navelim has no air conditioning, and the basketball tournament will be played with coolers. There are some temporary structures still being erected next to the swimming pool.
Why it matters: The opening ceremony is expected to have a full house with 12,000 school students expected to be present as Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurates the games. Officials expect the football matches to have the highest attendance. Past experience showed that attendance for other sports is limited.
Village dispute (Assam) – The AMRI Karbi Royal Council of the tribal king of Desh Doomorah said that Assam must return the village to Meghalaya. Desh Doomorah is one of the six areas of contention included in the second phase of the border talks between the two states. The King said, per historical facts, it’s a Khasi state. He cited a reference from ML Boses’ Historical and Constitutional documents of North East India.
Why it matters: According to the Ronghang, Desh Doomorah was divided after Meghalaya was born into Ri Bhoi of Meghalaya and Kamrup district of Assam. Constitutionally, Desh Doomorah constituted the Dimoria Tribal Block and the Rani tribal belt. The king said the border dispute must be resolved before the 2024 Lok Sabha election.
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₹699 – PVR has unveiled its PVR INOX Passport, a new subscription pass to increase footfall. The monthly pass will cost ₹699, and people can watch up to 10 movies every month from Mondays to Thursdays.