Bangalore: Before it completes one year in office next month, the Narendra Modi regime will give an “in -principle” approval for a suburban rail system for Bengaluru, according to Union Chemicals & Fertiliser Minister Ananth Kumar. Two railway ministers from the state, Mallikarjuna Kharge and DV Sadananda Gowda have tried to push the idea but their tenures were short to set the ball in motion. Gowda had even mentioned about it in his last year’s railway budget speech.
Ananth Kumar, who represents Bengaluru South in the Lok Sabha, told the Railway Ministry’s might give its “in principle” nod. “Bengaluru is badly in need of a Mumbailike local suburban train system.Only a proper metro-suburban train system combination can decongest the city,” Kumar said.
A suburban rail system requires double tracks on all sections, automatic signalling system, platforms every 2-3 km and electrification.Transport infrastructure consultancy RITES has conducted a feasibility study , and its report proposes setting up of a suburban rail system network of 405 km connecting Bengaluru with surrounding suburbs and towns. This is expected to cost about `9,000 crore. The previous BJP regime in the state, according to Kumar, had offered to bear half the project cost if a suburban rail project was sanctioned. “Now, I have put forth all these issues before the railway minister, and I am sure before the completion of one year of the Modi regime, we will get the approval. If the project becomes a reality , we will have more than 100 railway stations in and around the city,” he said.
The IISc arm, the Center for infrastructure, Sustainable Transportation and Urban Planning or CiSTUP , has said the proposed rail system can serve eight LS constituencies, 47 Assembly segments and 20 lakh commuter trips per day in and around Bengaluru. It believes every `100 invested in the project would result in an economic return worth Rs 600.
“This is one of the major priorities for me as an MP ,” said Congress Rajya Sabha member MV Rajeev Gowda.”Suburban rail is a beautiful solution to wean people, especially those in the IT sector, away from private transport,” he said.
Once the approval is in place, Ananth Kumar said, the government will have to start with a special purpose vehicle on the lines of K-RIDE to roll out the project. “If Karnataka and the Centre each chip in an equity of about `100 crore, the rest will come in the form of loan from multilateral agencies,” he added.
Experts with the Railways, however, are not sure if the arguments put forth in favour of a suburban rail system are correct. The experts at RITES have done the study assuming that existing lines originating from the city railway station or Yeshwantpur are not fully utilised and there is spare capacity available to run additional trains. “But peak-hour slots are already taken by long-distance trains. In such an event, would there be takers for sub-urban services during off-peak hours,” an expert said.