Centre rejects BMRCL proposal for not being in line with Metro Rail policy; projects in advanced stages, say Metro officials

BENGALURU: A delay in approvals from the Centre is holding back two much-awaited Metro projects in the city. While the state government had approved Namma Metro’s Phase II-A (18-km Outer Ring Road) and Phase II-B (KR Puram to Kempegowda International Airport) projects earlier in January, the Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation (BMRCL) awaits a green signal from the Union government.

Much of the blame for the delay, however, should fall on the Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) itself. It’s learnt that the ministry of housing and urban affairs (MoHUA) had rejected Namma Metro’s proposal as the detailed project reports (DPRs) did not comply with the Metro Rail Policy 2017. As part of the new appraisal framework, the BMRCL had to prepare a comprehensive mobility plan (CMP) and a separate alternative analysis report, besides reworking the DPR, to make a case on why the cost-intensive Metro project should be approved.

It’s also learnt that the BMRCL was told to redesign the stations to match the recommendations of NITI Aayog. The Centre felt the cost of stations estimated by the Namma Metro were too high. The Centre has, however, appreciated the BMRCL for the innovative finance model through which some private companies paid Rs 100 crore each towards Metro stations.

Senior officials in the BMRCL confirmed that the Centre has not approved the 18-km ORR line and the 38-km Airport line but maintained that these projects are in an advanced stage prior to approval. As per Namma Metro’s original plan, both the projects were supposed to be ready by 2023. But the delay in clearances will delay the project.

BMRCL managing director Ajay Seth said the transport utility is holding simultaneous talks —with financial agencies for funds and with the government for approvals — to save time. “MoHUA, NITI Aayog and department of economic affairs (DEA) have all approved sending the projects (both lines) to the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for funding, subject to norms/conditions that may be imposed by the GoI (government of India). Financial tieups from those agencies are being taken up simultaneously to save time,” he said.

The managing director expects in-principle approval from ADB by September-end. “The tender documents are ready. It’s being vetted by different agencies, including the Centre,” a source in the BMRCL said. he BMRCL hopes to raise $500 million from the ADB (roughly about Rs 3,500 crore) for the two projects.

While the 19-km ORR project between Central Silk Board and KR Puram is estimated to cost Rs 5,994 crore, the revised cost of the 38-km KR Puram-Hebbal-Airport project is Rs 10,584 crore. The BMRCL expects to raise up to 20% each of the costs of the two projects from the Centre and the state government in the form of debt and subordinated debt.

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