First line of Bangalore metro rail inaugurated

Bangalore: The seven-km first line of Bangalore metro rail was thrown open for commercial operations here today even as the Centre assured support to the proposed Rs 23,800 crore second phase covering a distance of 72 km. Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath flagged off the inaugural run of "Namma Metro" (Our Metro) amid much fanfare as this technology hub of 85 lakh residents, became the first city in the south to get a mass rapid transit system.

The seven-km stretch – from Mahatma Gandhi Road to Baiyappanahalli – with six stations, costing Rs 1,540 crore, is part of the Rs 11,609 crore first phase covering 42.3 km, construction of which is on fast-track and is expected to be completed by December 2013. Karnataka has prepared the second phase, and Kamal Nath in his address, urged the state government to clear it expeditiously and promised the Centre`s "full support" to it. Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda said the second phase proposal would be approved in the next Cabinet meeting.

Kamal Nath said the Union Government is planning metro rails in all cities with a population of over 30 lakh. "A project report is being prepared," he said. He said the Centre is giving thrust to development of suburban and satellite towns and announced that it would extend financial assistance in terms of water supply, sewage and waste management to Kanakapura town on Bangalore`s outskirts. Kamal Nath thanked the Japanese government for substantial funding to metro rail projects in the country and said without this support, the pace of work would not have been good.

Gowda said Japan International Cooperation Agency has extended a loan of Yen 64 billion (Rs 2,850 crore) to the `Namma metro` project. "It was a wonderful, beautiful and very smooth ride. It was like the rush hour ride in Tokyo", Ambassador of Japan in India Akitaka Saiki said at the inaugural function at Field Marshal Manekshaw Parade Ground, near Mahatma Gandhi Road station, after being part of the formal maiden run.

Kamal Nath said a high speed rail link from the city to Bangalore International Airport would be taken up at a cost of Rs 6,000 crore, ignoring the call made by former Union Urban Development Minister Ananth Kumar, who suggested its dropping and linking it with metro, instead. Kumar argued that if metro rail is extended to the airport, it would provide multi-point access to the people. Railways Minister Dinesh Trivedi, Corporate Affairs Minister M Veerappa Moily and Minister of State for Railways K H Muniyappa were among those present. Though the Bangalore metro project was first conceived 24 years ago, the foundation stone was laid by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on June 24, 2006.