Bonanza: seven new trains for State

Anil Kumar Sastry

Railway Budget 2010-11 also promises eleven new line surveys

BANGALORE: The Railway Budget 2010-11, presented by Union Minister for Railways Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday was full of promises on creating infrastructure for Karnataka even as the Minister gave seven new trains to the State.

On the infrastructure front, Ms. Banerjee announced 11 new line surveys and revival of five line surveys that were gathering dust. She also announced doubling of small stretches of three lines. The highlight of the budget was the ministry’s approval of the State’s proposal to undertake seven new line projects under public-private partnership and the State Government’s proposal to share costs of four on-going projects.

Ms. Banerjee granted the much-sought intercity express service, between Shimoga and Mysore, while she announced the services of Duranto Express, touted to be the common man’s Rajdhani between Yeshwanthpur and Delhi, as a weekly service. The other new trains announced include Bangalore–Nagarcoil weekly express via Madurai and Hosur; Mangalore–Tiruchirapalli weekly express; Bangalore–Tirupati intercity express (tri-weekly) via Bangarpet; Bangalore–Nelamangala passenger and Hospet–Harihar passenger (after gauge conversion).

The services of the Yeshwanthpur–Howrah Duranto express have been increased from the weekly service to four days a week, while theBangalore–Patna Sanghamitra express has been made a daily service from six days a week. Mangalore–Kochuveli Ernad express has also been made a daily service from three days a week. Ms. Banerjee also announced extension of Kochuveli–Yeshwanthpur weekly express to Hubli; Mangalore–Kannur passenger to Kozhikode and Dharwad–Gadag passenger to Solapur.

Infrastructure creation

Notwithstanding the slow pace of line doubling work between Bangalore and Mysore where the State Government is sharing two-thirds of the cost, the Minister said Karnataka was eager to share costs of two on-going new line construction, one-line doubling and one-gauge conversion. They are for Hassan–Bangalore; Kadur–Chikmagalur; Arsikere–Birur and Kolar–Chickaballapur, respectively.

Ms. Banerjee was positive on the State’s proposal to undertake seven new lines under PPP and said the ministry would consider the proposals on a priority. They include Talaguppa–Honnavar; Shimoga–Harihar; Whitefield–Kolar; Gadag–Haveri; Tumkur–Davangere; Bijapur–Shahabad and Dharwad–Belgaum.

Mixed bag

FKCCI Co-Chairman of Tourism Committee Prakash Mandoth, an expert on the Railways, said the budget was a mixed bag of goodies and disappointments. Though Ms. Banerjee has ordered surveys for several new lines, no action was promised on many completed surveys, including the Hubli–Ankola new line.

Long-pending demands for trains to Jammu, Varanasi, Shirdi and Amritsar had not been met even as demands for intercity services between Shimoga–Hospet, Mysore–Bijapur and Hubli–Solapur were not considered. Though the Minister of State for Railways K.H. Muniyappa was active in coaxing Karnataka to share project costs, he could not succeed in getting more projects in actual terms, Mr. Mandoth said.

Minister’s views

Minister of State for Railways K.H. Muniyappa, who in a recent interaction with journalists from The Hindu had said he would try to emulate C.K. Jaffer Sharief in improving rail infrastructure in Karnataka, said the new line surveys announced in the budget would be completed latest by a year. “In the next budget, you will see them [as new line projects],” he told The Hindu on Wednesday.

On PPP model, Mr. Muniyappa said a policy decision has to be taken on the mode of execution. “We have to decide whether it should be executed through Karnataka Rail Infrastructure Development Corporation or Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd.,” he said. All these projects come from the completed surveys and have been found economically viable.

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