State gave 8 rly ministers, but network record poor

State gave 8 rly ministers, but network record poor

DH file photo for representation.

Karnataka has given the country eight railway ministers. But the state’s railway network is “below average,” compared to other southern states.

Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Maharashtra are far ahead of Karnataka in terms of route length, population rail density (PRD), geographic rail density (GRD), according to the Karnataka Infrastructure Strategy and Investment Plan report prepared by the Infrastructure Development Corporation (Karnataka) Limited.

Karnataka’s total route length is 3,492 km; PRD is 57.1 km per million; and GRD is 18.2 km per 1,000 sqkm. Whereas the average route length of the four neighbouring states is 4,281 km; PRD is 57.7 km per million; and GRD is 24.6 km per 1,000 sqkm, the report submitted to the state government recently said.

Karnataka, as per the report, has to speed up implementation of the railway projects and a minimum of 158 km of route length has to be added every year to catch up with the neighbours. Currently, the state is adding an average of 45 km per year, which translates into a cumulative growth of 3.2%. At this rate, Karnataka will be on a par with other southern states by 2022.

H C Dasappa, C M Poonachcha, Kengal Hanumanthiah, T A Pai, George Fernandes, C K Jaffer Sheriff, Mallikarjuna Kharge and D V Sadananda Gowda from the state have served as Railway ministers.

“Railway development has been neglected over the years. Karnataka’s railway network is poor because of a lack of vision. Poor network is not only affecting the travellers, but also hurting the economic development of the state,” transportation expert M N Srihari said.

The good news, however, is that Karnataka’s growth in railway development has indeed picked pace in the past few years: As many as 17 new line projects, including the 42-km Hassan-Shravanabelagola and the 65-km Kottur-Harihar stretches, have been completed between 2005 and 2015. At 3.2%, the growth is much faster compared to its neighbours.

But the state needs to move much faster to bridge the gap. Karnataka has to expand its railway network at the rate of 5% every year to cover the existing gap. Currently, 14 projects are under various stages and on completion, they will augment the rail network by 1,439 km. Of the 14 projects, work on only four projects have commenced and they are expected to be completed by 2020.

“It is imperative that projects that are yet to commence physical construction require to be fast-tracked and completed within five years,” the report stated and recommended to the government to focus on efficient implementation of projects that are key for economic development by evolving innovative finance models.

H-K region neglected

A majority of the 14 projects under construction are in central and southern part of Karnataka, while most of the projects for which survey is completed is in Hyderabad-Karnataka (H-K). Only the Gadag-Wadi and Koppal-Raichur projects are underway in the region.

Additional chief secretary, Infrastructure Development Department, Sandeep Dave was not available for comment.

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