The process for getting a Suburban Rail Service for Bangalore commences with the government approving the preparation of the project report for Phase 1-A. A look by M.A. Siraj

The existing railway network around the city would see regular train services for daily travellers to reach the core area without the hassles of clogged road traffic, after the government approves the project report for Suburban Rail Service.

Daily commuters to Bangalore have a reason to cheer. The longstanding demand for commuter rail for linking Bangalore with its suburban towns would soon see the formalities taking shape, however in a rechristened form. It will be known as “Bangalore Suburban Rail Service” and not Commuter Rail.

In a significant headway, the proposal made by the Department of Urban Land Transport (DULT) was approved by the Chief Minister’s office last week. The project had been cleared by the former BJP Government but the final decision was pending at the Chief Minister’s office. As for the next step, the DULT would initiate the process of getting the Detailed Project Report (DPR) for phase-1A as described in the feasibility report done by the RITES.

Proposed network spread

Phase-1 will cover Bangalore-Mandya, Bangalore-Bangarpet, and Bangalore-Tumkur sections, network spread over a distance of 200 km. The trains would be operated by Bangalore Suburban Rail Corporation Limited (BSRCL) which is how the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) is likely to be named. DULT has got in touch with RITES of the Government of India which will chalk out the terms of reference in consultation with the CiSTUP at the Indian Institute of Science.

As per the RITES feasibility report, submitted in August 2012, Phase I-A will provide electrified train facilities on the Bangalore City-Nayandahalli-Jnanabharathi-Kengeri-Hejjala-Bidadi-Ramanagara and Bangalore City-Bangalore Cantt -Bangalore East- K.R. Puram-Whitefield-Devanagonthi-Malur sections.

Activists of Praja, a public advocacy organisation which had been canvassing for the Commuter Rail Service for last four years, feel the circumstances for kick-starting the project could not have been more fortuitous as Congress veteran from the State Mallikarjun Kharge is heading the Railway Ministry and elections to the Lok Sabha are round the corner. Says Sathya Sankaran, “This opportunity should not be missed by the State Government. Phase 1A should be rolled out before the code of conduct kicks in and setting up of BSRCL announced, which can implement the rest of the phases.”

President of the Praja, Muralidhar Rao, hails the decision and says the Suburban Rail Service is the most cost-effective connectivity solution towards expanding development around Bangalore. He says a km of the Suburban Rail Service would cost Rs. 20 crore while a km of Namma Metro costs the exchequer Rs. 350 crore besides causing damage to property and the environment.

He says the city fathers of Bangalore must learn from the failure of DAM (Delhi Airport Metro) which has been given up. “We cannot afford such white elephants and need to rework our priorities in sync with our constraints.”

Syed Khader Basha, who coordinated the research from the U.S. for the RITES report, has also hailed the decision as the best thing that has happened to Bangalore.