State, railways may strike deal on suburban rail

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu to visit city on Monday

State, railways may strike deal on suburban rail

The much-delayed suburban rail project for Bengaluru has finally reached a decisive stage. The state government and Railways are expected to strike a cost-sharing deal next week to build the necessary infrastructure. Also on the agenda is a special project vehicle, likely to be named as the Bengaluru Railway Infrastructure Development Corporation.

But Citizens for Bengaluru (CfB), a collective spearheading the commuter rail campaign, has a key demand: Let there be a proper strategy, so that the suburban rail network connects the top 10 economic hubs in and around the city including Electronics City, Whitefield, Sarjapur Road, Malur, Bidadi and Devanahalli. Another demand is to allocate budget for each of these links spread over the next two years.

These demands will be placed before Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu right after he kicks off the new MEMU train from Ramanagaram to Whitefield on Monday. CfB also wants the Railways to work with the state government with clear timeframes to commission these links. 

Letter to minister

A letter addressed to the minister, signed by over 21,000 citizens, reiterates the city’s three-decades old demand for a suburban train system. “Unfortunately, due to lack of strong political will, it never materialised. A full-fledged suburban train system can take out 50% of cars and motrocycles off the streets and have a tremendous positive impact on us and our children,” it reads.

Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had inaugurated projects worth Rs 45,000 crore for the suburban railways in Mumbai. The letter makes a stinging reference to this, juxtaposing Bengaluru’s long-pending demand. It says, “We know that your special love for Mumbai has resulted in a generous sanction of thousands of crores for expanding Mumbai suburban rail. We request a place in your heart for Bengaluru and some space in the budget for our commuter rail.”

MoU implications

If Suresh Prabhu inks a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the state government, it could hasten the creation of the necessary infrastructure. The Centre’s draft Suburban Rail policy had put the onus of acquiring land on the respective governments. In its 2012 report, consultancy firm RITES had indicated the state’s key role in creation of the required infrastructure.

A special purpose vehicle is expected to enable local railway officials to work closely with the state government on the suburban rail project. The state is also likely to fund the cost of rakes and automatic signalling between Baiyappanahalli and Whitefield. An upgrade of the MEMU maintenance shed in Banaswadi is also on the agenda.

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