Karnataka chugs on with suburban rail

NGO says 80:20 cost sharing basis will not work n Govt allocates Rs 340 crore, waits for Rs 70 crore from Railways.

BENGALURU: The city might just get a suburban rail. The gazette notification issued by the Urban Development Secretariat states that Bengaluru should have a functional suburban rail by 2019, and will cover 138.5 km under Phase 1.

But members of the Citizens for Bengaluru, the NGO that pressured the authorities to implement the suburban rail, are unhappy. "As lay citizens, we are unhappy with the state of affairs. 50:50 is how the cost sharing is always done. We have been demanding this for 30 years and this notification only slows it down. The state has guaranteed the project but how will they raise the money? What is the quick solution," asked Srinivas Alavilli, Coordinator of CfB.

In the Union budget, the Railway Ministry stated that the project would be taken up at 80:20 basis with the major burden on the state government.

"Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu promised us the suburban rail, but all we are getting are obstacles. This is classic government bureaucracy. Later, the state may say they fully support the project but cannot find funds," he said.

"Rs 10 crore was allocated in 2014 by the state cabinet to form the Bangalore Suburban Rail Corporation and recently allotted Rs 345 crore. But the other 20% has not come from the Railway Ministry, as seen in the pink book this year," said transport expert Sanjeev Dyamnavar.

Apart from the 20%, there are a few other things needed to bring the train on track. "A detailed project report (DPR) is yet to be done, involving engineering and land acquisition requirements. The Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) and DPR should be done parallelly. This notification is just a reinforcement of the state's earlier mandate," Sanjeev said, adding that the move will pressure the Centre to allocate the remaining amount.

The notification includes Rs 278 crore for the conversion of 15 pairs of DEMU (diesel) trains to MEMU (electric) trains, Rs 25 crore for a maintenance shed in Banaswadi and Rs 41.2 crore for a train between Byyappanahalli and Whitefield.

"The Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT) shall be the nodal agency responsible for monitoring and supervision. DULT shall initiate the establishment of SPV, quickly on a time-bound manner. Until the SPV is formed, a standing committee will be formed," the Gazette states.

The report stated, "The funding pattern for the project shall be as per the new investment framework of the policy of Ministry of Railways for implementing Suburban Rail Projects across the country."

Sanjeev said, "The loan must be taken by the SPV and a DPR is also required. All this will take time, but the state has already given the go ahead to DULT. It appears as if they are indirectly implying that 80% of Phase 1 is being paid by them, without any loans."

How they plan to raise the money and fast-track the project remains to be seen.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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