BENGALURU: With the Centre’s final Suburban Rail Policy putting the lid on the funding controversy between the Railways and the state government by fixing the latter’s share at 80%, the baby steps towards forming the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) are finally being taken.
The Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT), which is implementing the project on behalf of the state, has sent the proposal on formation of an SPV jointly by the Railways and the state to both the agencies for approval.
“The Urban Development Department has approved it and it has now gone to the Finance Department for clearance. After that, the Cabinet has to okay it,” said a top DULT official. “The proposal sent to the Bangalore Railway Division is now with the Railway Board and is awaiting clearance,” the official added.
Though the state had allocated `345 crore in its budget for the project, the Railways have not taken any steps towards implementing any of the four steps proposed by the state government (see box) to take the project forward, charge DULT officials. “The Railways were stubborn that unless the SPV was formed, they would not take any other step,” they said.
Meanwhile, reliable railway sources insist that the basis structure (in this case, the SPV) needs to be in place before the project could be taken forward. “We have sent the proposal to Delhi (Railway Board) for approval and are expecting a positive response soon,” said a top railway official.
“We are doing everything we can to fast track the project. The suburban rail policy was finalised by the Centre only on April 18. We have done much within this two-month period,” the official added.
SPV to take few more months
There is no sight of the suburban service taking shape soon. While July-end is expected to finally see the clearances given by both the Railways and the state, the actual formation of the SPV will take a few more months. “Under the Companies Act, a minimum of three months is required to form a new concern. It involves putting in place a board of directors, staff and framing rules to govern it,” sources said. The creation of three pit lines to house MEMU trains at Banaswadi could take a year after funds are released, a railway source told Express earlier.
The Suburban Rail Project was first proposed in 2007. A feasibility report was prepared by consultancy firm RITES (Rail India Technical and Economic Service) in November 2011. Its final report was submitted in June 2012.
The state approved it in July 2013. It was originally meant to cover 440.8 km and cost `10,929 crore. Railways maintained that both the City Railway station and Yeshvantpur were saturated and it was impossible to run more trains from these points.
It was then broken down into phases to ensure the project gets started with Phase 1A set to be implemented first. The project was initially planned with the funding pattern set as 50:50 between the state and the Railways. However, the Centre’s draft suburban policy released on December 6, 2016, fixed the responsibility of the suburban network on the respective state governments and insisted they had to bear 80% of the funding.Despite appeals for reconsideration by Karnataka, the Centre’s final policy released on April 18, 2017 endorsed the draft policy.
Rs 2,400 cr
Cost of Phase-1(A) of the suburban railway project. The Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT) has proposed that the SPV run the suburban service only along these three corridors (below), running to nearly 250km
KSR (Bengaluru City) station to Mandya station
Yeshvantpur station to Tumakuru station
Yeshvantpur station or Cantonment station to Bangarpet station
Building the suburban network
The state government order in March 2017 had called for implementation of the following steps
Conversion of 15 pairs of conventional trains to Mainline Electric Multiple Unit (MEMU) trains - MEMUs will have 12 coaches and can transport 3,000 passengers instead of the 2,000 being transported presently. It will cut down diesel cost as it runs on electricity. Eco-friendly too.
Creation of a maintenance yard for MEMU trains at Banaswadi
Easy connectivity between Baiyappanahalli and Whitefield
Creating intermediate block signalling between City Railway Station and Krishnarajapuram - By creating intermediate signals at a 2km distance instead of the present 4km, it will help run more trains on the existing track