Bangalore Suburban Rail; Sorry, I am not kept in the loop – Kharge

Bangalore (SBC):  Will Bangalore ever see suburban trains connecting the outskirts to the city centre, ferrying lakhs of commuters? Sounds like a distant reality. This, even while the Karnataka government is trying to fast-track implementation of the project and has offered to bear 50% of the cost. Lack of coordination is also a stumbling block.

Railway minister Mallikarjun Kharge says he hasn’t been kept in the loop on the issue. “I’ve held three meetings with Karnataka’s Chief Secretary and the Infrastructure Secretary. The state government could have brought it to my notice. I will call for the file immediately and see what can be done,” Kharge told.

However, this paper has copies of letters from the state government to the railway ministry, pertaining to the issue. A letter from then chief secretary SV Ranganath’s office to the railway board adviser (project) Pradeep Kumar on February 16, 2013 reads: “We are keen to implement the Commuter Rail System for Bangalore in association with Indian Railways, on a cost-sharing basis. I request that this proposal be recommended to be included in the forthcoming railway budget.”

Another letter Ranganath wrote to Pradeep Kumar on October 28, 2013 says, “The state government has initiated action for preparation of a detailed project report for the first phase of the project, setting up of Bangalore Suburban Rail Company Ltd., and initiating action for the acquisition of Binny Mills for the project.”

“I request the railway ministry to give its concurrence for participation in the project, contribute to the equity of the Bangalore Suburban Rail Company Limited, and also commit to contribute 50% of the project in collaboration with the state government,” Ranganath said, requesting “the proposal be considered top priority and concurrence be communicated at the earliest”.

In the latest missive to the railway ministry, V Manjula, Commissioner of the Directorate of Urban Land Transport wrote to the General Manager, South Western Railways, on November 7, 2013, urging him to recommend the proposal to the railway ministry at the earliest.

South Western Railway (SWR), a major stakeholder in the project, said it has no information on how the Railway Board is dealing with the proposal and it’s bound by protocol not to intervene in the Board’s decisions.

“The project report is being readied. When that’s done, we’ll see how the project can be rolled out,” said Anil Kumar Agarwal, divisional railway manager, SWR.

It’s strange that though the railway ministry is headed by a state Congress stalwart, and his party heads the state government, the suburban rail proposal is just not chugging in.

ABOUT THE PROJECT

  • Envisioned in 2010, study initiated; has been tabled several times at the ministry for discussion.
  • Will provide railway connectivity from suburbs to urban locations within radius of 40-60km.
  • Studied by Railway India Technical and Economical Service, an engineering consulting company specializing in transport infrastructure.
  • Cost pegged at Rs 8,759 crore, proposed to be taken up on 50-50 equity by state govt and Railways

PROPOSED ROUTES

  • Ramanagaram to Kengeri-32km
  • Byappanahalli to Hosur-41km
  • Tumkur to Yeshwantpur-64km
  • Yelahanka to Doddaballapur-24km

Except Tumkur MP GS Basavaraj, no other MLA or MP from Bangalore is bothered about the project. What’s more shocking is that the railway minister is from our state and he isn’t expedited the project. This project can decongest Bangalore and commuting between the city and suburbs could become much easier, like in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai.

There should be full cooperation between the Centre and state government on such joint ventures. When we started the campaign for this project, this was our focus. The Railway Board is treating Karnataka government’s proposal with disdain. When Kharge is from our state, he must have all the information. He has the power and can make this happen.

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