Bangalore: Work on the new Bengaluru-Hassan railway line, which would reduce travel time between the two cities as well as to Mangaluru, has come to an abrupt stop. The 185-km project, which has missed several deadlines, has hit another roadblock for want of land on a two-km stretch.
The project, which was commissioned in 1996 by the then prime minister H D Deve Gowda, is unlikely to be ready by December this year.
Of the total stretch, only 40-km-long Hassan-Shravanabelagola line has been operational. The remaining 130-km broad gauge rail line, which is already completed, has not been put to use due to 13-km incomplete stretch between Hassan and Nelamangala. Here, the South Western Railway (SWR) is facing two issues: Non-availability of land on the two-km stretch and agitation by farmers in the remaining 11-km stretch.
“Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board (KIADB) has initiated the process to acquire additional land on the two-km stretch between Solur and Tippasandra in Ramanagaram district. We hope to start the work of laying the track by September as this land would come to our possession in a few days,’’ Sharad Kumar Jain, Chief Engineer (Construction), SWR told. The railways need at least three months to complete this stretch, apart from testing and trial runs, he added.
On the remaining incomplete stretch, the SWR was unable to start the work due to agitation by farmers. “Some farmers, who had parted with their properties, are now seeking higher compensation. These lands were acquired as per the old Land Acquisition Act. Now, the farmers are demanding compensation as per the new Act. We cannot agree to their demand as law does not permit it. Approaching court is the only remedy for them”, Jain said. The railways has sought the help of state government to overcome these hurdles, he added.
Bengaluru Rural MP D K Suresh said he would talk to farmers and resolve the issue. “Railways should have started work immediately after acquiring land. There has been a disparity in payment of compensation as land was acquired for the project earlier and after the new land acquisition law came into force. Some of them have parted with their lands for railways, national highway as well as gas pipeline project. Hence, opposition is natural. But, we will try to pacify them”, he said. Hassan MP H D Deve Gowda promised to follow-up the project to make sure that the track is operational by December this year.
Railway commuter T P Lokesh doubted that the project would be ready anytime soon. “The entire 140-km stretch is going waste because of a silly issue. The state government and railways have taken the project for granted despite knowing that it would help thousands of commuters.”