Expectations are high in the run up to the Railway Budget to be tabled in Parliament on Tuesday for new trains and projects for Karnataka, but the critical issue remains allocation of adequate funds for the sanctioned and ongoing projects bogged down by delays, leading to cost escalations.
According to sources in the railways, the cost of the track doubling work between Bangalore and Mysore — which was originally estimated to be around Rs. 350 crore — shot up to more than Rs. 500 crore, but latest and the revised estimate has pegged the cost of the project — including electrification — at Rs. 846.06 crore.
The project has been taken up on a cost-sharing basis with the State contributing two-thirds of the cost and the railways pitching in with the balance amount. While the cost has escalated due to delay in land acquisition, delay in permission to shift the armoury at Srirangapatana, farmers protest for timely compensation etc, the timeline for the completion of the project too has been revised and deadlines overshot many times. As per the latest reckoning, the project may spill over beyond December 2014 as the work on the superstructure of two major bridges across the river Cauvery — being constructed at a cost of Rs. 45 crore — will take 12 months from the date of commencement. The previous and revised deadline was December this year.
Railway authorities pointed out that there are 30 major construction projects on hand in the State of which 12 pertain to new railway lines (1,632 km length) with a total anticipated cost of nearly Rs. 9,000 crore. But so far only 155 km of length has been completed entailing an expenditure of Rs. 1,486 crore. The new lines on which work is under way or has been sanctioned include Kadur-Chikmagalur-Sakleshpur, Kottur-Harihar, Bangalore-Satyamangalam, Rayadurga-Tumkur via Kanakadurga, Mnirabad0-Raichur, Bagalkot-Kudachi, Shimoga-Harihar to name a few.
But it is the track doubling work which will add to the track capacity, facilitate introduction of more trains and reduce the running time of the existing trains.
Track doubling projects taken up in the State include Bangalore-Mysore, Birur-Shivani, Arsikere-Birur, Bangalore-Krishnarajapuram,-Whitefield (Quadrupling), Yeshwanthpur-Yelahanka-Channasandra, Hosdurga-Chikjajur, Hospet-Hubli-Londa-Vasco and Tornagallu-Ranjitapura to name a few.
But of 13 double line projects taken up in the State with a route length of 752 km, only 211 km has been completed so far with an expenditure of Rs. 1,246 crore. The total cost of the track doubling project has been estimated at Rs. 4,346 crore of which Rs. 3,995 crore is the contribution of the railways and the balance will come from the State as some of the projects have been taken up on a cost-sharing basis. The cost of all the 30 ongoing railway projects in the jurisdiction of the South Western Railway in Karnataka is expected to be around Rs. 15,372 crore of which the railways will chip in with Rs. 12,228 crore and the balance will come from the State.
But sources pointed out that the average yearly expenditure and outlay of nearly Rs. 600 crore to Rs. 800 crore per year, it is anybody’s guess as to how many years it will take for these projects to materialise. “The State would be better off seeking additional funds for the early completion of the ongoing project rather than seeking new trains whose speed will be curtailed as the existing single-line tracks in the State are already clogged. The track utilisation is more than 100 per cent in most sections of the South Western Railway adding to traffic bottleneck and congestion and introducing additional trains will only add to clogging the network,” according to railway authorities.
Hence it is imperative that the State seeks additional allocation of funds for the ongoing projects, for passenger amenities etc rather than seeking new trains or lobby for new projects which may not materialise in the near future, they added.