Railway Ministry, Karnataka sign MoU for Suburban Railway System

BENGALURU: The Karnataka government and the Railways Ministry today signed a memorandum of understanding in what is seen as a step towards realising the city’s long standing demand for a suburban railway system to address its notorious traffic congestion.

The MoU for the development of suburban railway system in Bengaluru was released by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and Chief Minister Siddaramaiah at a function here.

Counting on the credentials of Bengaluru as a global city and technology capital of the country, Prabhu said it is the duty of the government, at the Centre and the state, that transportation needs of the people are taken care of.

With this in mind, a decision has been taken to start suburban railway system for the city, he said.

A special company would be set up for the project and it will be financed through an “innovative” way, Prabhu said.

“It is no longer possible for either the state government or the central government to find money for the budget from their normal revenue source to finance entire infrastructure needs…. so we have to find an innovative way,” he said, adding it would not come into the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act of the state government .

Pointing out that there were equity related concerns raised by the state government, Prabhu said they would be looked into.

Siddaramaiah, who expressed reservation over the Centre’s draft suburban rail policy’s financing pattern, said “the Minister (Prabhu) has now spoken about adopting innovative ways of funding for which the state government will provide its fullest cooperation. We are also fine with involving of the private partners.”

Pointing out that the draft mentions financing pattern as 20 per cent by central government and 80 per cent by the state government, he said it would be burden on Karnataka.

He proposed a 50:50 financing pattern, and requested that the Centre should share the land cost also.

At the function organised by the South Western Railway, Prabhu and Siddaramaiah unveiled the plaque for laying of foundation stone for new coaching terminal at Baiyyappanahalli aimed at decongesting other terminals in the city.

They also flagged off KSR Bengaluru/Yesvantpur-Shivamogga train and MEMU train between KSR Bengaluru and Ramanagara.

Promising that Bengaluru-Mysuru track doubling would be commissioned before March-end, Prabhu also sought the state government’s cooperation in quadrupling of the line between Bengaluru to Whitefield as it will help in easing the traffic congestion.

Citizens’ pressure for Bengaluru Suburban Rail System finally works!

A suburban rail network in Bengaluru will offer an affordable and swifter mode of commuting in a city in which vehicles move an average 10 kmph on clogged roads

A decade-long fight by Bengaluru citizens to use the railway lines that circle India’s tech hub to create a suburban train system for the city is finally taking off.On Monday, the Indian Railways signed a pact with the Karnataka government to set up a company to run and manage the suburban rail network, offering affordable and faster ways for commuters to travel across Bengaluru, where vehicles move an average of 10 kmph on the city’s clogged roads.

Karnataka will contribute 80 per cent of the Rs 360 crore needed to convert 15 trains to electric commuter trains, with the remaining amount coming from the Railways. The first commuter train or (MEMU) was flagged off to Ramanagara, a district 35 km west of Bengaluru.

“We see the signing of the MoU as a good step. However, we really want this to translate into real work and see results,” said Sanjeev Dyamannavar, founder of Praja Raaj, who has spearheaded the campaign for a suburban rail network for over a decade. “We also want the infrastructure to be provided by the state government, for which we will continue to follow up.”

The city, home to over 11 million people, had 6.59 million vehicles as on October, according to statistics on Karnataka’s transport department site. With slightly over one vehicle for every two people, Bengaluru has among the highest concentrations of private vehicles that drive at speeds of less than 10 kmph on most arterial roads.

At the same time, public transport has struggled to scale. The first phase of the 32-km Metro, one decade in making, is expected to be ready by April. Plans are on to build the second and third phase, to be completed by 2025. Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) has a fleet of 6,186 buses, but this is not enough to take private vehicles off the roads. The BMTC fleet size was reduced from 6,775 to the curren level in 2012-2013. While it plans to add 1,600 buses by March this year, 554 buses were scrapped. BMTC did not procure a single new bus in 2015.

Today, it takes around two to two-and-a-half hours by road from the city railway station to WhiteField, as against 45 minutes on a train.

In 2013, Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah committed funds for the suburban rail system in his budget presentation, and Rail Minister Suresh Prabhu committed the Centre’s contribution in the 2016 rail budget.

“I hope the state government provides land to the railways. This will benefit more than 40 lakh (four million) people on an immediate basis and make the city more liveable,” says Mahesh Mahadevan, Head HR for Makino India Private Limited as well as part of the citizens activists group fighting for the Suburban Railways. “Rail connectivity is already available across the city, it is just about making it work.”

J M Chandra Kisen, Chairman for Center for Infrastructure, Sustainable Transportation and Urban Planning (CiSTUP), a research group at the Indian Institute of Science says that the suburban railway system is a much needed transportation support for the city.

“A large railway network is already existing across the city. Hence, the suburban railway is a project that can be executed quickly without much infrastructure requirements. It will surely reduce the traffic, pollution and travel time for the people. It will ease the traffic from the roads,” said Kisen.