SPV for Bangalore Suburban Rail likely to be in place by November

A high-level meet chaired by the Chief Secretary at Vidhana Soudha on Friday specified stringent timelines to both the State and the Railways to implement each stage of the project. K’taka Chief Secy accepts specific demands post Rail Yatra drive. State government also announced allocation of Rs.23 crore for the suburban train project as activists met the CS

BENGALURU: Friday was a good day for all Bengalureans rallying for an efficient, robust, suburban railway system to solve the city’s traffic gridlock. While the state government announced allocation of Rs 23 crore for the suburban train project, Karnataka Chief Secretary TM Vijay Bhaskar met suburban rail activists and accepted a memorandum on basic demands related to the suburban railway project.

To push for the formation of the suburban rail at the earliest, Chief Secretary T M Vijay Bhaskar has fixed September 16 as the deadline for the Karnataka Rail Infrastructure Development Enterprises (K-RIDE) to prepare a note to be presented to the Cabinet on the joint venture between Railways and the State government. A Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) that will implement the Suburban Rail project for the city will be constituted after the joint venture under the umbrella of the K-RIDE is in place. If things go through, it is likely to be in place by November.

A high-level meet chaired by the Chief Secretary at Vidhana Soudha on Friday specified stringent timelines to both the State and the Railways to implement each stage of the project. Highly placed State government sources said, “The Cabinet note will speak about the revised share holding pattern that will be implemented- in K-RIDE. The ownership pattern will be restructured as 51: 49 with the State being the majority shareholder. The private partner, I-DECK would be divested of all the shares held by it in K-RIDE.”

“The note can be placed before the Cabinet and approval obtained within three or four days. A deadline of September 20 has been fixed for it,” an official said. K-RIDE will facilitate signing of an MoU between State and the Centre to form the Joint Venture, he added.

A South Western Railway Zone official said, “The JV will require an investment of Rs.5 crore. Since a small sum already exists, the State and the Centre will have to pool in Rs.2.45 crore each for setting it up.” The Ministry of Railways has already given its in-principle approval for formation of the joint venture.

“The Railways has also been asked to expedite the process so that a formal approval is obtained before September 16,” another senior railway official said.

The SPV will be set up within two to three months of the State Cabinet approving the JV, a source said. “Most likely it will be in place by November-end,” he added.The 161-km dedicated suburban rail corridor is estimated to cost Rs 17,000 crore.

The state government fund was given to the South Western Railways to increase Mainline Electric Multiple Units (MEMU) trains for suburban railway project. The chief secretary assured that talks with the Railways are on and the process to form a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) will soon happen.

The chief secretary is holding meetings with the Railways, Department of Urban Land Transport, Urban Development Department and  Bangalore Metro Railway Corporation Limited (BMRCL) officials every 10 days.

Tara Krishnaswamy, co-founder of Citizens for Bengaluru (CfB), which led the highly followed Modalu Train Beku campaign recently, said, “The first time when we met him before the yatra, he asked us to note and collate the low hanging fruit demands. He wanted a detailed discussion on specific detailed demands that we collected in the Rail Yatra so that he can be prepared for the next meeting with the railway officials.”

She added, “He acknowledged the success of the Rail Yatra and said that it will be addressed in the fastest possible way.”

The chief secretary has also given time in the third week of September to the activists, for a detailed meeting on specific action points.

Formation of an SPV like that of BMRCL, a separate company (co-owned by the state and centre) is necessary for the steady expansion of tracks and services.

CfB on Friday asked the chief secretary to meet five demands by the start of next year:

  • ORR and E City: There are only two trains from city to ORR and E City. 6.30am from Yeswantpur and 7:15 from City Station. We need at least two more trains from each of these places at more convenient times morning and evening. Most importantly, these trains cannot be delayed yielding to other trains and must run on time.
  • Access roads at Bellandur, Carmelaram and Heelalige needs work immediately. We request the DEMU train between Banaswadi to Hosur to be re-introduced.
  • Yelahanka – Whitefield now has double line and electrified and yet no trains! Whitefield – Hoody -KR Puram – Byappanahalli-Banaswadi-Hebbal -Lottegolla halli – Yeswantpur line has tremendous potential due to metro connectivity at Byappanahalli and KR Puram (in future). Evening service after 7pm from Whitefield to Bangalore City is in much demand. Trains do not run on time. We learned that the Cantonment-Whitefield quadrupling work has been pending for several years.
  • Optimal utilisation of 16 Coach MEMU rakes: They should run for 500 kms/day.
  • Tumkuru: Evening service after 5pm from Bengaluru to Tumkuru.