Special Correspondent

Political conflicts threatened the project last year

Cost escalation factory may be difficult for BMRCLA few of the 25 companies which bid for the project were short-listed

Bangalore: With Transport Minister M. Mallikarjun Kharge announcing on Monday that the Government is going ahead with the Metro rail project, commuters in Bangalore can feel optimistic again. Political conflicts threatened the project last year.

The cost escalation factor may be difficult for the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation (BMRCL) to cope with unless both the Union and State Governments significantly enhance their investment. As of mid-2005, the estimated cost was Rs. 6,200 crores. For implementing the project, 25 companies, 15 of them international, had participated in global tenders and a few were short-listed.

The original funding estimates were for the Union Government to fund Rs. 1,450 crores, the State Government Rs. 1,800 crores; and for the BMRC to raise the balance through institutional finance with UTI Bank as the lead arranger. The current cost is still being worked out and the Union Government is planning to route its funding through one of its undertakings which will also make some of the equipment needed for Metro. The State Government has collected more than Rs. 800 crores by way of an infrastructure cess.

The Metro rail project got clearances from Delhi during the last quarter of 2005 with the Project Implementation Board and the Union Cabinet making only minor changes after being satisfied with explanations sought. It was at this juncture that some senior politicians began opposing the project and instead stated asking for an elevated rail as being more economical.

According to approved plans, Metro rail will have elevated tracks for 29.15 km of its routes. Even if the work begins now, it may be mid 2009 by the time the first coaches start to roll. The entire route can be completed only by late 2011.

The delay may well be worth for the city's commuters. Initially, Metro will carry 8.70 lakh passengers a day and 11.10 lakh a day by 2011.

It may increase to 17.60 lakh passengers by 2021. Starting with 117 coaches, the services will be scaled up to 180 coaches run by 2011, according to finalised plans.