The civil society organisation Praja had run a campaign for commuter railway to connect Bangalore with the surrounding towns since 2010. A look at its advantages by M.A. Siraj

The Suburban Rail proposal for Bangalore hangs in the balance despite passage of seven months since the State Government approved it in principle. The proposal had been cleared by the Department of Urban Land Transport (DULT) following preparation of the feasibility study by RITES in August 2012. Though it was approved by the Jagdish Shettar Government at the fag end of its tenure, it was Chief Minister Siddaramiah’s office that sent the proposal to the Railway Board in July 2013.

Records show that the Railway Board officials had received the proposal and work on the Detailed Project Report (DPR) is already on.

The civil society organisation Praja had run the campaign for a commuter railway to connect Bangalore with the surrounding towns since 2010. The constant public pressure had compelled the former BJP Government to refer the proposal to CiSTUP in the Indian Institute of Science and still later to RITES to prepare a feasibility report. The RITES report presented in August 2012 had envisaged a suburban railway over a 440 km. network connecting Bangalore with towns such as Mandya, Ramanagaram, Channapatna, Chikkaballapur, Doddaballapur, Devanahalli, Sidlaghatta, Hosur, Malur, Bangarpet, Hoskote, Nelamangala, and Tumkur. The towns are spread over a region in a 70-100 km. radius from Bangalore.

Commuting time

The report had found the railway the most suitable mode of transport for suburban commuters to reach the heart of the city unhindered by the clogged thoroughfares of the city. It had proposed 250 to 300 services a day of trains comprising EMUs with a frequency of 10 to 20 minutes. It estimated that the suburban services would bring down the commuting time to merely 60 to 90 minutes from the farthest point on the proposed network to Bangalore. The Rs. 9,000 crore proposal estimated that it will take 40 per cent of the daily commuters away from the City’s overloaded roads. All that the network required was doubling of the existing track on 49 per cent of the length and electrification of 79 per cent of the track length. It visualised 25 lakh daily ridership by commuters. The cost was to be shared equally between the State Government and the Ministry of Railways.

It is pointed out that the Suburban Rail will ensure better utilisation of the track and railway infrastructure. For instance, several of the suburban stations such as Lottegollahalli (see picture), Nelamangala, Chikkabanavar, and Hebbal remain deserted throughout the day except for receiving a couple of passenger trains. Any arrangement with BMTC for connecting these stations with localities, and commercial, industrial and educational hubs will enhance the mobility as well as the use of the Railway infrastructure.

The feasibility report had pointed out that it will entail a cost of Rs. 15 to 20 crore a km. while the Metro (whose Phase II has already been given the green signal a fortnight ago) cost the exchequer Rs. 200 to Rs. 400 crore for each km.

Praja activist Sanjeev Dyamanavvar, a leading campaigner for the ‘Commuter Rail’, finds enthusiasm for money-spinning Metro and lack of zest for Suburban Rail quite surprising.

The latter has found encouragement from several quarters but backing from Bangalore city’s legislators has remained deficient. Minister for Urban Development Vinay Kumar Sorke has written at least two letters to the Railway Board to take up the proposal.

Tumkur MP Basavaraj and South Bangalore MP Ananth Kumar too have urged early measures in their letters to the Railway Minister.

Sanjeev feels that the proposal requires a push from MLAs representing the city. Creation of a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) would be the only concrete signal towards progress of Suburban Rail.