Starting December 11, a green revolution in Bengaluru’s transportation will unfold as South Western Railway (SWR) extends its electric train services to Nandi Hills, a cherished weekend retreat located approximately 60 km from the city. The move comes after the electrification between Yelahanka and Chikkaballapur was completed in March 2022.
On December 11, SWR will extend its Mainline Electric Multiple Unit (Memu) trains on the airport route from Devanahalli to Chikkaballapur. This expansion includes trains such as 06531/06532 Bengaluru Cantonment-Chikballapur-Cantonment, 06535/06538 Chikkaballapur-Bengaluru Cantonment-Chikkaballapur, and 06593/06594 Yesvantpur-Chikkaballapur-Yesvantpur. The delay in introducing electric trains on this route, despite electrification completion in March 2022, was attributed to various reasons.
Residents and enthusiasts in the region have shared their thoughts on the extension of electric train services. Siddharth Raja, a history enthusiast residing in Nandi Hills, expressed concerns about the lack of multi-modal public transport from Nandi Halt train station to key sites, hindering practical use. He emphasizes the need for Southwestern Railway to prioritize reducing travel time, suggesting potential improvements in the overall commuter experience.
College student and rail enthusiast Manju Nair highlighted a timing concern, stating that the proposed morning Memu train reaching Nandi halt station at 6:37 am might be too late for those seeking to enjoy the sunrise at Nandi Hills. Nair suggested adjusting the schedule to better accommodate individuals who wish to experience the natural beauty of the hills at dawn.
The extension of services to Chikkaballapur is expected to benefit students, farmers, and visitors to the Adiyogi bust at Chikkaballapur. However, concerns arise as these trains bypass important intermediate stations like Bettahalsoor, Doddajala, and Channasandra. Rail activist Rajkumar Dugar urges SWR to reconsider, asserting that these trains should stop at intermediate stations. However, the lack of agents willing to man these halt stations at a meager Rs 1,500 per month currently poses a challenge.
SWR had initially planned a one-day tour package on the 108-year-old Bengaluru-Devanahalli-Chikkaballapur heritage rail route. This ambitious plan includes restoring heritage stations, scheduling sunrise trains to Nandi Hills, and visits to historical landmarks such as Devanahalli Fort and the Adiyogi bust at Chikkaballapur. Kusuma Hariprasad, Additional Divisional Manager of the Bengaluru division, revealed that SWR, in collaboration with the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), has already restored three heritage stations on this route and is committed to completing the Nandi halt restoration within two months.
Highlighting the historical significance, the railway line from Devanahalli to Chikkaballapur was the first in the country established through a public-private partnership during Sir M Visvesvaraya’s tenure as the Diwan of Mysore in 1915. With Sir M Visvesvaraya’s birthplace in Muddenahalli, Chikkaballapur, this railway line holds a special place in India’s railway history.