April 15, 2021
Bangalore Cover Story

Techies sought trains to beat traffic now traffic is beat

Hey Ram, please save Carmelaram,” tweeted Deepankar Pattnaik, a techie, last week after getting stuck in the mile-long traffic jam outside the railway crossing in this small village by the same name in Varthur Hobli, Sarjapura Road. That day wasn’t the first time that Pattnaik or thousands like him who stay in Bengaluru’s Tech Corridor got stuck in the jam; and it certainly won’t be the last. Here’s why:

Although the traffic junction has been a bit of a bother for people staying around Sarjapura Road and travelling towards Bengaluru’s various tech parks for work, the real problem started around four months back when a bunch of techies (who have been trying to prevent a Delhi-like situation in Bengaluru) started taking the train to work. When they piled on the pressure on Railways to start more trains, all hell broke loose. A few trains started stopping at the station; a new demo train was started to gauge response. It all resulted in the boom barrier at the Carmelaram crossing going down for at least 20 minutes during peak hours. Long queues and jams that last up to 45 minutes with ambulances, school buses jostling for space are now the norm in the morning hours after the boom barrier goes up. Some techies complain that they get stuck at the crossing even as late as 11.50 pm.

“The problematic hours are between 7.30 am and 10 am. At least 10 trains pass through the Carmelaram crossing during this time,” said Ginson George, a techie. He added that the traffic gets backed up for at least a mile whenever the boom barrier goes down. Add to that our propensity to overtake vehicles lined up in the queue and block the way of the oncoming vehicles. When the boom barrier goes up, motorists get stuck for “40-45 minutes as vehicles move in from two directions and are split into three”, he said. (Carmelaram crossing is at a Y-junction; it cuts through Gunjur Road, Gunjur-Doddakannelli Road and the one coming from Chikka Bellandur).

“The major problem is these three roads here. One goes towards Sarjapura, the other towards the inner route to tech parks and the other towards Sarjapura Main Road. At the crossing, we don’t know which car will go inside or come out. It gets worse during the peak hours,” said Amit Kumar, a techie and a regular commuter on the stretch.

“This is the time when school buses are ferrying children and they also get stuck. Heavy vehicles and water tankers also use the road at the same time; also, there are several parents dropping their kids to school or returning home after. All this adds to the mess at Carmelaram,” said George.

On Monday morning, Bangalore Mirror visited the area for a ground report and found that apart from the problems that locals talk about, the roads are also narrow and riddled with potholes. There is no pavement for pedestrians which puts them at risk. The railway gates get closed thrice in the morning hours: around 7.20 am, 8.15 am and at 9 am. The gates get closed for 15 minutes (minimum) each time as two trains pass the crossing before the boom barriers are lifted and motorists allowed to pass.

Another curious thing happened on Monday — word quickly spread when people saw BM cameras at the spot and two policemen landed up at the crossing to man traffic. The level crossing guard and area residents later told us that they had never seen a single policeman at the spot before in their lives. “BM’s story is already having an impact,” a resident said. (We know. Too much pressure, right?)

In fact, techies fed up with the poor traffic management and unpredictable train timings have been tweeting pictures to the Bangalore Mirror handle on Twitter to draw attention to their problems. They have also been tagging Bengaluru development minister KJ George, the Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) and others. They have complained to the traffic department, and even BBMP Commissioner Manjunatha Prasad but no solution is in sight.

Most techies seem to be aware that they are up against an unsympathetic government. With elections round the corner, some of them have started tagging politicians in their tweets warning them that they will choose the NOTA (none of the above) option when they go to polling booths.

That is, if they are able to reach in time.

Major problems, short-term solutions

Railway crossing right next to the station is a bad idea

“The railway crossing is right next to the Carmelaram station and this is absolutely wrong. Each morning, there are two trains that cross simultaneously and each train has to wait for the other to leave since tracks are double only at the station. This makes us wait for more than 20 minutes during the peak hours,” said Puneeth Montadka, an engineer.
Solution: Although this will require some planning and time, some techies have suggested that the Railways stick to schedules and announce exact time when trains will pass and when the crossing would remain open, for sure. This would help them plan their trip better and avoid getting stuck in jams.

Most motorists do not follow traffic rules

“People lack common sense and driving skills. Bikes and cars wait on the wrong side of the carriageway when the crossing is shut. When it opens, everybody jostles for space as there is no way to go. People do not understand that it is a small and narrow road and they cannot make space for themselves if they do not co-operate. On top of this, these trucks also take the same route,” said Saurabh Srivastava, a techie.
Solution: Till such time a road over-bridge is built at the crossing, traffic police should post personnel to enforce lane discipline. Strict penalty should be imposed on those who overtake motorists waiting in queue and park their vehicles on the wrong side of the carriageway.

Frequent movement of heavy trucks

“There is movement of heavy vehicles in the morning due to construction activity in the area. If one truck takes a turn instead of going straight, then we have to wait for 20-25 minutes for it to clear the way. Water tankers also frequent the area at the same time as they have to supply water to households and apartments nearby. And then there are BMTC buses which service the Chikka Bellandur area. All this makes it a bustling place and the traffic very chaotic,” said Deepankar Patnaik, an IT consultant.
Solution: Restrict movement of heavy vehicles and water tankers to either early in the morning (say, up to 6 am) or after peak hours. Movement of heavy vehicles in city limits is anyway restricted during day time. Ditto for water tankers.

Narrow, potholed roads

“The roads are really bad. Every lane is full of potholes and makes the traffic movement worse. The vehicles queue up for more than 1.5 km when the crossing is shut. There are new tech parks which have come up and this will lead to more chaos in the coming days,” said Rajesh Parupalli, a techie.
Solution: This one’s a no-brainer. Potholes should be filled up by now as per the Chief Minister’s direction. Since his diktat has not been followed in this area, authorities should spruce up the roads to provide relief in the short term.

Why Carmelaram matters

Carmelaram railway junction is a crucial point for residents of Bengaluru’s Tech Corridor as they take this path to avoid heavy traffic on Sarjapura Road and its arterial roads. Commuters heading towards Whitefield from Sarjapura Road benefit the most due to this crossing as Whitefield is just 7-8 km from the railway junction and motorists can skip all the signals and the resultant traffic jams on Outer Ring Road if they take this road. The Carmelaram crossing connects all major tech parks. This is the route for Sarjapura village residents and those living in Chikka Bellandur and Gunjur areas. One can even join Hosur Road and reach Electronics City by taking this route.

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