Bangalore Suburban Rail Policy needs Review: Karnataka CM tells Rail Minister

BANGALORE: The Suburban Rail Policy, announced by the Railway Ministry, does not consider the state government’s suggestions and is skewed to the state’s disadvantage. Hence, it should be revised, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah stated on Saturday.

In a letter to Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, the CM stated that the state government had communicated its suggestions to the Ministry of Railways on January 12 on all important project parameters like funding (both loan and equity), land acquisition and operational losses/gains. The main issue, suggested across several parameters, was that there should be equal participation by the state and Railways.

“The state had also suggested that creation of exclusive infrastructure may not be insisted upon as this would not only prevent leveraging of existing infrastructure where there is slack but also make the Suburban rail uneconomical. However, the new suburban rail policy has been announced on April 18 without considering these suggestions,’’ the CM noted.

Siddaramaiah stated that the policy is skewed to the state’s disadvantage while referring to the clauses that operational losses are to be borne by state government in case the Special Purpose Vehicle is not able to bear it, whle the final authority on fare fixation has been retained with the Railways. “I would request you to relax the provision pertaining to devolving of 100 per cent operational losses on the state government by making it joint responsibility of both equity holders and vest the freedom of fixing the fare with the SPV,’’ he urged.

The CM also suggested that equal sharing of all financial burden and use of existing infrastructure, wherever feasible, in consultation with Railways be permitted and the guidelines revised accordingly. Metropolitan cities require multiple public transport solutions to deal with increasing commuting requirements and suburban rail systems play an important role as it complements other urban public transport initiatives in Bengaluru, he added.

Chief Public Relations Officer, South Western Railway, E Vijaya said, “The letter pertains to the issue of bearing of operational losses and fixation of fare by the Special Purpose Vehicle. As the Suburban Rail Policy has been issued by Ministry of Railways, any changes shall be considered and decided by the Railway Board and approved by the ministry.” She also said there is very little scope for using the existing infrastructure for additional services. “Railways is already running about 55 pairs of commuter trains in Bengaluru area,” the CPRO added.

It should be on the lines of Metro rail: Official

“It is very difficult for the state to fund 80 per cent of the project cost. That, along with the land acquisition, will escalate the cost further for the state government,” L K Atheeq, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister said. The Suburban Rail Policy mandates a 80:20 funding pattern between the state and Centre, respectively for suburban systems across the country. The Suburban Rail should be taken up on the lines of the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd where both the state and the Centre have 50:50 equity. “Even in the case of Metro, our actual contribution increases up to 70 per cent as the operating losses are borne by the state government,” he said.