BENGALURU: With the Railway budget round the corner, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has announced that his department will implement the much sought after suburban railway project to ease Bengaluru’s traffic congestion.
Speaking at Invest Karnataka 2016 here on Thursday, Mr Prabhu announced in-principle approval for the suburban railway connectivity in Bengaluru. Since there is a lot of demand for suburban railway services in the city, the Railway Minister agreed to take up this project under a joint-venture with the state government.
Mr. Prabhu said that he will hold a discussion with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on taking up the project under a profit sharing model. He said he will work out a plan on how to make this project a reality.
The Railway Minister requested the state government to invest to developing railways stations in satellite cities. Since Bengaluru Railway station has a heavy rush of passengers, to ease this rush, satellite stations can be developed under PPP model. The state government should come forward to share the cost by providing land.
Mr Prabhu requested the state to provide land and participate with the Railway department in joint venture proposals. Under this formula, the state also owns railway assets and shares profits based on its investment in the projects. The joint venture initiative envisages 49% investment and ownership of the railways and 51% share for the states. Mr Prabhu said that he will hold a meeting with the Chief Minister to initiate the joint ventures with Karnataka, once he presents the railway budget. He stated that already, 16 states have come forward to join the Railways in joint venture projects.
Mallikarjun Kharge opposes:
However Congress leader in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, who was present at the event, opposed the joint venture railway project of the Centre. “This joint venture proposal, with the states providing 51 % investment and railways sharing 41%, is unfair to the states and a clever attempt to transfer the Centre’s responsibility of spreading the railway network to the states. Karnataka and other cash—strapped states with vast areas, especially in north Karnataka face drought regularly and must not be burdened”, he pleaded. Mr Kharge, a former railway minister, suggested to Mr Prabhu not to waste energy and resources by spending over Rs 1 lakh crore on the bullet train on the 500-km stretch from Mumbai to Hyderabad, which will cost the Centre Rs 200 crore per km. He suggested that the Railway Minister take up high speed and industrial corridor trains, instead of costly bullet train projects.