'It's not exactly a suburban rail network'

An MoU signed with much fanfare on Monday will help the state take the first step towards a local train system for Bengaluru but does not provide for a full suburban rail network.

Officials told DH on condition of anonymity that the memorandum in essence was more of an interim measure that serves two purposes: running 15 MEMU trains on local routes — including the three introduced on Monday — and to decongest the Whitefield route by adding two more lines to the existing double line. Together with the Banaswadi MEMU shed, the new system can help thousands of people commute faster.

Officials said the financial model will prove to be a hurdle. According to the draft policy, there is a 40% equity equally shared by state and Centre. Borrowing the remaining 60% is the responsibility of the state .

On Tuesday, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said funding 80% of the project (including 60% borrowing) would be a burden on the exchequer. He requested Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu twice during the programme to tweak the draft policy to make it a 50:50 partnership model. Noting that land prices have skyrocketed, the chief minister urged the Railway ministry to share cost of land acquisition.

Siddaramaiah had on Saturday tweeted that the state government would provide “80% of the Rs 360 crore needed to convert 15 trains into MEMU trains”.

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