BENGALURU: The much-awaited dedicated suburban rail project for the city is set to be further delayed, with the Prime Minister’s Office asking for a restructuring of the proposal submitted for the Rs 22,242-crore project, over two months ago. It wants the project to focus on providing connectivity from suburban areas to the city, and leave the core of the city to be serviced by bus or Metro.
This was specified in a letter sent by the Railway Board to the Karnataka Rail Infrastructure Development Company (K-RIDE), the nodal agency, advising it to restructure the proposal and revise the Detailed Project Report, as per suggestions offered by the PMO and the Ministry of Finance. The letter was received by the office of the Chief Administrative Office (Constructions) in Bengaluru, on April 29.
Highly-placed railway sources billed the whole project as “back to square one”. A top railway official said it would take anywhere between six months to a year for a new project report to be prepared. K-RIDE would carry out the work instead of consultancy firm, RITES, which had prepared the present report.
It may be recalled that the report was meant to be placed before the Union Cabinet on its last working day on March 7, but was dropped at the last minute as the financial viability
of the project came into question. The letter, signed by Ruth Changsan, the director of Metropolitan Transport Project, Railway Board, New
Delhi, dated April 10, says, “The PMO vide ID dated March 20 has directed the Board to restructure the Bengaluru suburban transport project, as discussed in the meeting chaired by principal secretary to the Prime Minister, held on March 11. The Ministry of Finance vide office memorandum dated March 25 was also furnished with observations on the proposal.”
It has listed five major aspects that need to be reworked. Calling for reducing the number of suburban stations with the City, it felt the core of the city needs to be served by the Metro or bus. “The proposed suburban lines should not compete with Metro. The suburban lines should be planned to bring people from and to suburban areas of the city, and for their development as nodal centres,” it said.
The Kengeri to Whitefield corridor proposed in the suburban project had been strongly opposed by BMRCL, as it felt that Metro operations will cater to the same route. A similar issue was raised about the Yelahanka-Rajanukunte route as well as the suburban line to airport.
The letter also called for bifurcation of the project into many point-to-point projects. The fares should be fixed such that it would meet the Operations and Maintenance cost of the project. It called for a comparison to be made, with the fares prevalent in other modes of transport.
The Finance Ministry has suggested reworking the financial cost of the project with Viability Gap Fund (one-time grant) as well as the implementation of the individual point-to-point projects through public-private partnership mode. It called upon “the State government and Ministry of Railways to facilitate this by offering surplus land parcels or VGF and structure it on a revenue sharing basis.”