Suburban rail project put on backburner

Inside a suburban train that operates a skeletal service between Yeshwantpur and Hosur. DH PHOTO

The announcements by state and Central leaders which boosted the expectations of the suburban rail project have proved to be nothing more than a set of empty promises as the Union government has put the project on the backburner.

The interim Budget presented by Piyush Goyal has allocated Rs 10 crore for the Rs 17,000 crore project during the financial year 2019-20, which eliminates the possibility of any work happening for the next year.

In December 2018, Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy had promised to lay the foundation stone for the project after meeting Piyush Goyal in Delhi. “The railway minister promised to take the matter to Niti Ayog for its approval. The minister also assured us of allocating some money for the project in the Union Budget,” he had said on December 27.

Sources in the railways, however, noted that the state government’s conditions for approving the draft feasibility report for the project has put off the momentum gained over the last few months.

“There was an expectation among the senior officials that the project would take off with a good allocation in the Union Budget. However, the state government’s conditions in the face of railways’ expectation of an unconditional approval, complicated the situation,” sources in the railways said.

Activists said it was unfortunate that two years after the state and Union governments signed a memorandum of understanding to build suburban rail network, they have been only finding more reasons to delay the project.

Citizens for Bengaluru’s Srinivas Alavilli said the paltry allocation shows the continued apathy of the governments towards a much-needed project. “The gap between Rs 10 crore and the project cost of Rs 17,000 crore is a direct reflection of the difference between the government’s response and people’s expectation,” he said.

Urban Transport Sanjeev Dyamannavar said suburban project missed a big momentum and the allied works needed more funds. “Funds have been allocated for doubling Byappanahalli-Hosur and Yashwantpur-Channasandra lines. However, more funds were needed for quadrupling Cantonment-Whitefield section. It is disappointing that automatic signalling and level crossing elimination in Bengaluru division has not been given priority,” he said.

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