Karnataka

Suburban rail project finds mention in budget yet again

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has announced that the Union government will provide 20% of equity and facilitate external assistance up to 60% of the project cost.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has announced that the Union government will provide 20% of equity and facilitate external assistance up to 60% of the project cost.  

Activists remain unimpressed; they say there is nothing new in the promise

The much delayed 148-km-long suburban rail project for Bengaluru once again found a mention in the Union Budget that was unveiled on Saturday.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that the Union government would provide 20% of equity and facilitate external assistance up to 60% of the project cost, which is estimated at ₹18,600 crore. Fares will be along the lines of the metro.

However, citizens who have been fighting for a robust suburban rail network were unimpressed. “There is nothing new in the budget promise. The announcement is just a repetition. The project has been cleared by the Extended Railway Board (ERB) and final clearance is pending before the Union Cabinet. We demand that the Centre clear the project and allocate the required funds so that it gets implemented,” said transport expert Sanjeev Dyamannavar of the advocacy group Praja.

In the 2018-19 Union budget, the Union government announced a suburban rail network of approximately 160 km at an estimated cost of ₹17,000 crore to cater to the growth of the city. However, in the ‘Pink Book’, brought out by the Railways on Work, Machinery and Rolling Stock Programme of Railways for 2018-19, only ₹1 crore had been allocated.

In the following 2019-20 financial year, ₹10 crore was allocated for the project. Meanwhile, based on the direction of the Centre, some changes were made in the detailed project report. These included dropping the number of stations, avoiding operations in areas already serviced by Namma Metro, and others. The ERB had given its clearance in November 2019.

Srinivas Alavilli of Citizens for Bengaluru also expressed his frustration over the lack of movement in the project. “While presenting the budget in 2018, Arun Jaitley too made an announcement about the suburban rail network. For decades, only assurances have been made but no progress has been achieved.”

Various rail user groups in the city have been campaigning for a robust suburban rail network by petitioning elected representatives from the city and carrying online campaigns. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently visited the State, hundreds of people took to social media asking for an early clearance for the project that has remained on paper for over three decades.

Amit Garg, who heads Karnataka Rail Infrastructure Development Enterprises (K-RIDE), a special purpose vehicle for the project, said: “It’s a positive development. What has been proposed by the K-RIDE has been mentioned in the budget. The suburban rail will have a network of 148 km with 57 stations. To implement the project, we will approach financial agencies such as JICA and ADB to raise the required funds.” In the city, BMRCL is also borrowing loans from international agencies for Namma Metro.

Minister of State for Railways Suresh Angadi told The Hindu that the project will go before the Cabinet for approval.

“Both the Centre and State will contribute 20% each and the remaining 60% will be raised from other sources. More information on the project will be shared on Sunday,” he said.

Former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said: “This could be one positive feature in the budget for the State but it all depends on how it is achieved.”

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Printable version | Feb 29, 2020 1:25:39 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/suburban-rail-project-finds-mention-in-budget-yet-again/article30716274.ece

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