Bengaluru: 20 years later, Suburban Rail project gets Rs 349 crore push

State clears initial equity to start work; trains to KIA could be a reality within 8-9 months after Centre gives nod.
Karnataka suburban rail project.
Karnataka suburban rail project.

BENGALURU: The much-delayed Suburban Railway project (Phase 1A) for Bengaluru received a big push on Wednesday with State Cabinet clearing its initial equity of Rs 349 cr for starting the project. The payment of initial equity, which is 20% of the Rs 1,745 cr was a pre-requisite set by the Railways to initiate the project.

The project would be implemented on a cost sharing basis between Government of Karnataka and Ministry of Railways. “The Rs 349cr is state’s initial equity (20%) of the Rs 1,745 cr project, and a similar amount would be paid to railways in the financial year 2018-19,” said Law and Parliamentary Affairs minister TB Jayachandra while briefing the reporters after the Cabinet meeting.

The Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to be formed to implement the project would decide the ways and means to raise resources from other sources apart from Government of Karnataka and Railway Ministry.
“The Phase-1 of the project envisages speedy rail connectivity between heart of the city and the suburban towns around Bengaluru. In all, it includes a railway network of 440km and pressing into service 58 new trains, each train with a capacity to ferry 1,800 to 2,000 commuters,” Jayachandra added.

The initial payment would clear the decks for starting work on the project that was envisaged to be a reality more than 2 decades ago. This project is on sharing basis. While the state is investing 20 per cent of the cost, another 20 per cent cost will be borne by the Union government.However,  Jayachandra said that Railways would decide the deadline for the completion.

How suburban rail will help residents of city?

The project, once implemented, will help people reach Kempegowda International Airport from the city faster. While Namma Metro connectivity is expected to take at least four more years, experts have argued that rail connectivity can be achieved much faster at the fraction of the cost for building a metro. Some advocates of suburban rail even estimated that trains to KIA could be up and running within 8-9 months with the existing infrastructure. Besides KIA connectivity, the project will also help connect many suburbs, including Baiyappanahalli and Whitefield to important stations in the city like Cantonment station which is used by around 40,000 people everyday. There is a large section of commuters who use trains currently to commute to Whitefield and even they will benefit with the full fledged network. It will also help people commuting from areas like Hosur, Kunigal, Bangarpet, Chikballapur and Tumakuru.

Centre yet to give green signal

With State having already given its nod, people now expect city’s suburban rail project to get the green signal from Centre too. The state government is likely to announce its share for the project in the budget to be presented on February 16. And it has its fingers crossed that the Union government’s budget on February 1 will also have a mention of the project. According to sources from the Department of Urban Land Transport, the Cabinet approval for equity infusion into the special purpose vehicle would enable creation of rail infrastructure and new rolling stock to start 58 new trains or 116 new services. “This would more than double the current suburban services and has a potential to help more than 2 lakh commuters,” an official said.

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