'Rlys must work on auto signalling to run more trains'

The delay in forming a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for the suburban railways has also hit the installation of automatic signalling, a cost-effective method to increase the capacity of rail lines for local trains without waiting for Rs 12,000 crore to complete the project. 

Noting that the SPV has been delayed by one-and-a-half years, urban transport activist Sanjeev Dyamannavar said the state government and the railway should implement the work on a cost-sharing basis without the SPV. 

"Automatic signalling costs about Rs 1.15 crore per km and takes a fraction of the time required for building new infrastructure like an elevated railway line. Instead of waiting for an SPV, small projects like this should be taken up on priority," he said. 

Known as Automatic Block Signalling (ABS), the mechanism has proved to be safer than manual signalling and helps to run more trains on a stretch of the railway track which is divided into 'blocks'. 

The South Western Railway has repeatedly said that the track capacity had been saturated and it would not be possible to introduce more trains. However, the railways told the state government last year that the SPV will install the ABS for three key railway lines from KSR Bengaluru station to Mandya, Tumakuru and Yelahanka. 

As per the official data, most of the railway lines in Bengaluru have 90% occupancy with the only exception being Chikkaballapur and Mandya (Mysuru) lines. Only 63% of the track capacity is used on the KSR Bengaluru-Yeshwantpur stretch and barely 50% for the Yeshwantpur-Yelahanka and 29% for the Yelahanka-Chikkaballapur. On the other hand, occupancy surges beyond its capacity to 101% on the Baiyappanahalli-Whitefield line. 

A senior railway official said the SPV would be better equipped to ensure that there are no financial delays. "The state has delayed payments for various projects and the railways has had to wait for budgetary allocations. The SPV has the capacity to settle such issues quickly," the official said. 

Train to airport

Speaking about the possibility of introducing trains to the airport, a railway official said though the line was clear, congestion at Yeshwantpur station makes it difficult to run trains. "The morning and evening hours, when the suburban trains will be needed, see peak occupancy in stations due to the arrival/departure of long-distance trains," he said. 

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