Suburban railway network faces further delay

Among other things, the Centre does not want the proposed rail network to compete with metro lines.

Among other things, the Centre does not want the proposed rail network to compete with metro lines.   | Photo Credit: Sudhakara Jain

Centre comes up with riders on number of stations, model for project execution and fares

Prior to the announcement of Lok Sabha elections, politicians promised citizens that all hurdles related to the suburban railway network had been cleared. However, the suburban railway network that citizens were promised at a cost of ₹22,242 crore will be delayed as the central government has directed the Rail Infrastructure Development Company (Karnataka) Limited (K-RIDE) to revise the detailed project report (DPR).

The central government asked K-RIDE to consider factors like reducing the number of stations in the core city area and ensuring that the suburban rail network does not overlap with Namma Metro lines.

In a letter dated April 10, 2019, the Ministry of Railways conveyed the decision taken by the Prime Minister's Office on the suburban rail project to K-RIDE.

Cut down stations

The letter states that the proposed lines not compete with metro lines. The aim of the suburban rail should be to connect cities like Ramanagara, Tumakuru and Doddaballapur. “The rail system should also focus on bringing people from and to suburban areas of the city, and for their development as nodal centres,” read the letter.

In another major direction, K-RIDE has been asked to cut down the number of suburban rail stations in the core areas of the city, which should be served by Namma Metro or BMTC.

The State government had earlier taken up these issues with the South Western Railway (SWR) while deliberating on the existing DPR. While replying to the suggestion of the government, the Railways had said that priority should be given to building the suburban rail in the city areas, and extending the network to suburban areas will be taken up in a phased manner at a later stage. It appears that the Centre has gone by the demand of the State government to incorporate extension of the rail network to suburban areas.

Suburban rail activist Sanjeev Dyamannavar criticised this latest development, which he said is a delaying tactic that will create more hurdles. "Both the State government and the Union Ministry of Railway held several rounds of deliberation on the existing DPR. The meeting involved the railway minister, the chief minister and top officials. They came out with a statement that all the issues have been resolved and the project will be taken up. It is very disappointing that now the PMO and Finance Ministry are coming up with new riders,” he said.

Explore public-private partnership

In an another major move, the Union government has asked the agency to consider implementing individual point-to-point projects through public-private partnership. Both the State government and the Union Ministry of Railways have been asked to facilitate PPP model by offering surplus land parcels, viability gap fund (VGF) and adapting revenue share models.

Experts question whether the PPP model will be successful. “Building a mass transit through PPP model will not be a feasible option. Giving more impetus to metro network and neglecting the suburban network is not correct. This is nothing but a tactic to delay the project,” said Mr. Dyamannavar.

Not a cheaper option

Citizens who have been fighting for the suburban rail system believe that it will be a cheaper mode of transport when compared to buses and metro. However, this may not be the case.

The letter stated: “The fare box revenue shall be planned in a manner that it would meet operations and maintenance cost of the project duly considering the fare prevalent in other modes of transport.” In other words, the cost of a ticket could be on the higher end.

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Printable version | May 31, 2020 8:26:47 PM |

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