Rly minister proposes joint venture for suburban rail

Rly minister proposes joint venture for suburban rail
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Thursday offered to take up the much-delayed suburban rail around Bengaluru on a joint venture (JV) basis with the State government.

Prabhu utilised the valedictory function of Invest Karnataka - 2016 as a platform to make his offer. On Wednesday, the Union Cabinet allowed the Indian Railways to form joint venture companies with state governments to mobilise resources for speedy implementation of rail projects.

“Soon after the Union budget, let us sit together and work out a partnership model to take up the (suburban rail) project. Let us innovate and see how we can take the project forward,” Prabhu said.

The Union minister said the Centre was keen to make state governments partners in railway projects and also share profits with them. “We are also ready to share railways’ assets developed through joint ventures with state governments,” Prabhu said and added that it was a historic decision, pointing out that railways hitherto was the exclusive domain of the Centre.

Prabhu also offered to take up construction of a new railway station on the outskirts of Bengaluru based on the JV model with the state government in a bid to decongest the existing City Railway Station.

However, senior Congress leader and former Union Railways minister Mallikarjun Kharge, in his address, openly criticised Prabhu’s proposal. “Railway connectivity is the responsibility of the Centre. You are passing on the burden of railway projects to the state by proposing the JV model. The model says states should bear 49 per cent of the project cost. From where will states get the resources to fund the projects?” Kharge sought to know.

Kharge said Prabhu should request Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to provide more gross budgetary support to the railways and not seek funds from the State.

In her speech later in the evening, Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industries Nirmala Sitaraman objected to the use of the word “burden” by Kharge. “Growth and development are not burden. Karnataka has the potential to take such project forward,” she said.
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