Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bangalore: Flying in, flying out

I landed at the Bangalore International Airport on Independence Day with a sense of anticipation. It was my first use of the new facility which is about 40km from the city’s Central Business District.

There had been attempts to delay the opening of the airport through protests and court case. The main objection by some sections was that the infrastructural development had not been completed and therefore transit between the city and the airport would be time consuming. The Governor and his Cabinet went ahead anyway and opened the airport.

I had not asked for a car to meet me on arrival. There is a bus from the airport to the city every 30 minutes. This service is run by the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) with a large fleet of A/C Volvos and non-A/C vehicles.

The bus bay is less than 100 meters from the terminal. Route maps painted on walls show a choice of 8 convenient routes. I selected Route 5 on a Volvo to get dropped near High Grounds Police Station. The trip took about 45 minutes and cost Rs.125.

(Incidentally, many Bangaloreans would remember the cute High Grounds Police Station building. Well, it is no longer there – demolished for widening the road as part of the inevitable infrastructural development. A pity, I must say.)

For return on Sunday, 17th, I boarded a Volvo at JC Nagar at 3.30 P.M. for my 5.30 P.M. flight. The ticket cost Rs.155; the rate varies according to the destination/boarding point. But the time taken was, again, about 45 minutes.

You can book bus tickets on line and have them delivered to you. Also available is a unique Home Connect service. You can pre-arrange for a taxi to pick you up from or drop you at the chosen bus stop. (Log on to www.bmtcinfo.com or www.redbus.in)

Perhaps the reason for the short transit time was both the days I was traveling were holidays. When the widening of roads which is under way is completed, the transfer should be faster. And, certainly the congestion on the road could be reduced if more people switched to buses instead of own vehicles, and the ‘seeing off ceremony’ of relatives and friends accompanying a passenger to send him off is avoided.

Bangalore’s modern airport on 4,000 acres of land has the capacity to handle 11 million passengers annually. What impressed me most was that it has a fully equipped 24x7 medical center, which also provides a state-of-the-art cardiac care ambulance with qualified staff to transfer critical patients to major hospitals.

I noticed a couple of negative points too. The big traffic circles on the road connecting the airport to Highway 7, results in reducing speed and the sharp turns into and out of them are not passenger friendly. This could be easily remedied by having narrower oval or oblong traffic islands or by widening the entry and exit points of the circles.

Again, the boarding gates are on the first floor. The aerobridges are useless for smaller aircrafts. As a result, one has to walk down a flight of steps to board, carrying cabin baggage. Hopefully with the second runway and terminal that are planned, this apparently illogical arrangement would be avoided.

To sum up, Bangalore can be proud of its new International Airport. It is precisely what a fast-growing metropolis needs.

Also see:

Nostalgia: Bangalore again

Nostalgia: The romance of India/Indian Coffee House

Hockey days in Bangalore

Gunboat Jack, a Bangalore hero of the past

Bangalore Memories: Cricket, hockey and the tragedy of Len Dial

The Bangalore that was, 60 years ago!

Bangalore: Of a club, a park and a Chief Secretary couple
Bangalore memories



I heard that a helicopter service is also available from the airport to the city - only Rs. 4,500 per ride per person!

Ram said...

The purpose of this airport is mainly to fleece the dollar-loaded NRIs. Too many of them travel these days and this accounts for all seats booked in all planes of all airlines serving India. That alone should thin the Ozone layer by an inch every year! I think that best contribution I can make in the effort to save the planet is not to indulge in the gimmick of tree planting but, not buy car or sell the car I have, walk as much as possible and not to travel to India at all and stay put where I am now.

In your time in Bangalore and probably mine, Davanahalli where this airport is situated used to be a distant village reachable by steam train. While industrialisation was welcome in 1960s, many even then warned about India heading on the road to population explosion.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Raji, I believe that a helicopter service was considered, but shelved because of the high cost. I have mentioned about this in my post 'Go by bus' in Giving It A Shot.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Ram, one can't blame the NRIs if they travel to India often. After all, they remit about 27 billion USD annually to India and might like to check their money.