Commuter rail project hit by 'funds constraint'

Commuter rail project  hit by 'funds constraint'

The suburban rail or the commuter rail system (CRS) is unlikely to receive the railway ministry’s nod anytime soon. Citing financial constraints and ‘overload’ of on-going railway projects, the ministry has put the CRS on the back burner.

Proposed first in 2006-07 in Phase-I of Comprehensive Traffic and Transport Plan, CRS was billed as a solution for the woes of people commuting to far-off locations such as Whitefield, Bidadi, Malur, Hoskote and Ramanagar. However, the project was not backed by the political will for implementation. Over the last three years, the proposal gained momentum with civic society claiming CRS as one of the solutions to decongest City roads.

The move finally culminated in August 2012 with RITES submitting a feasibility report on the proposal. Buoyed by the development, the Department of Urban Land Transport (DULT) began preparing the groundwork for Phase-IA of the CRS. The DULT drew up plans to connect Bangalore with Kengeri, Hejjala, Bidadi, Ramanagar, KR Puram, Whitefield and Malur on two separate railway lines. 

The State government approved the project, and even constituted a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for the purpose with the rider of 50:50 cost sharing with the Railways.  Report submitted

A report on this was also forwarded to the railway ministry in October 2013. Subsequently, the NDA regime, in its railway budget, made a mention of the project. Railway Minister D V Sadananda Gowda in his speech said: “Bengaluru with bustling business activity attracts large commuters from surrounding rural areas and towns necessitating better connectivity of Bengaluru City with its suburban areas and hinterland. 

“Study to explore possibility of enhancing the existing IR network of Bengaluru for meeting the above need will be taken up. In addition, to cater to the demand of passenger traffic in Bengaluru area, Byyappanahalli will be developed as a coaching terminal...” 

However, within weeks of this speech, Minister of State for Railways, Manoj Sinha, said that the railways could not put a time frame on sanctioning the project.

In his reply to a question raised by Dharwad MP Pralhad Joshi, the MoS for Railways stated: “Due to large shelf of ongoing works and funds constraints, no time frame can be given for sanction of the project.” The minister did not make any statement of at least a study being commissioned for the purpose, as stated by Gowda in his Railway Budget speech.

Sinha, in his statement, admitted that a proposal for the suburban rail system was received from the government of Karnataka for an estimated cost of Rs 8,800 crore and that there was a proposal to share the costs on 50:50 basis.

DULT is nonetheless confident that it can turn around the scepticism of the Railways by providing a full-fledged presentation on the project in the coming months. 

DULT Commissioner V Manjula, who was unaware of the Railways statement, said: “We have already given RITES the job of preparing a DPR, apart from forming the SPV for the project. We will give a full scale presentation to the Railways department and try to convince them in approving the project.”

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