Suburban rail SPV soon, but work to be delayed

The state Cabinet on January 10 approved the draft feasibility report sent by the South Western Railway (SWR).

A special purpose vehicle (SPV) to build Bengaluru’s suburban rail network may become a reality in a month but the project itself is likely to be delayed, thanks to a set of conditions put forward by the state government.

The state Cabinet on January 10 approved the draft feasibility report sent by the South Western Railway (SWR). The Cabinet made several changes, including an extension of the suburban network to Tumakuru, Ramanagaram and Doddaballapur, and revised the cost from Rs 19,500 crore to Rs 23,093 crore.

The government’s conditions that accompanied the in-principle approval sent to the railways include the demand for utilisation of about 700 acres of land free of cost, change in the alignment of the corridors, change in the distance between stations from the proposed 1-2 km to 4-5 km and extension of the dedicated lines, sources in SWR said.

When asked about the possible fallout of such conditions, SWR General Manager Ajay Kumar Singh said the proposals have to be decided at the ministry level. “We had hoped for the inception of the project through a foundation laying ceremony before the budget. However, it seems changes in the alignment require a revised detailed project report,” he said.

Meanwhile, the state government was keen on the implementation of the project at the earliest. “We hope the railways will provide land free of cost since it is a project aimed at providing affordable transport to a larger society,” a senior official in the Urban Development Department said.

Officials, however, said such exceptions can be made only at the level of the Railway Board, which has framed rules regarding lease of land.

Sources in SWR said the project will go to Niti Ayog and clearances have to be obtained by the Prime Minister. “The Railway Ministry can take a decision on projects below Rs 500 crore. Anything beyond that goes to the higher ups,” the source said.

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