Bengaluru:Karnataka seeks funds for Bengaluru suburban rail service

Bengaluru, Feb 24 (IANS) The Karnataka government is hoping the railway budget for fiscal 2016-17 will allot funds to run a full-fledged suburban rail service linking Bengaluru with towns in the hinterland, a senior official said here on Wednesday.

“We have convinced Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on the urgent need to operate a dedicated suburban rail service in Bengaluru for daily commuters and a floating population from nearby towns and villages to ease vehicular pressure on roads,” the urban land transport directorate official told IANS on the condition of anonymity.

Though Prabhu, who was in the city on February 4 to participate in the state’s global investors’ meet assured the state government of considering its plea, it remains to be seen if the rail budget on Thursday would earmark funds to initiate the project due to the challenges it faces on multiple fronts.

“The chief minister (Siddaramaiah) has petitioned Prabhu with a detailed project report of Rites for providing alternate transport and ease congestion on highways and roads in and around the city of 10-million people, with a 1.5-million floating population daily,” the official said.

Though the South Western Railway (SWR) submitted its views on the project feasibility to the railway board on January 27, the state government assured Prabhu of facilitating its execution by providing land, shifting utilities and clearing hurdles for integrating the suburban rail service with the metro rail network across the city and the three main stations for long distance passenger trains.

The report by the state-run Rail India Technical and Economic Service (Rites) has raised concerns over bottlenecks the project will face in execution, as land acquisition and demolition of built-up area needs the state’s intervention at every level and dislocation of the limited service currently will affect its commuters.

To ensure the project will take-off at the earliest with an integrated approach for seamless transportation in and out of the city, Bengaluru development minister K.J. George recently suggested connecting the suburban rail service to metro stations at three terminals where long distance trains also originate, terminate or pass through and passengers can inter-change over to either local transport mode.

The terminals are at Yeshwantpur in the city’s northwest, Whitefield or Baiyappanahalli in north east and Kengeri in southwest where passengers from long distance trains can also use suburban or metro services to reach their destinations within or outside the city outskirts.

All three terminals, connected to the main city station and Cantonment station in the city centre, currently ferry thousands of passengers from Tumukuru, 70km away in north, Bangarapet in east, (100 km away) and Mandya in south (100 km away) to and from the city on the limited suburban service operated with push-pull trains and diesel multiple units (DMUs).

“The suburban rail service with increased frequency will also reduce crowding of long distance express/passenger trains by commuters from nearby towns and villages enroute and disperse them in metro rail from the terminals, the official said.

The much-delayed 42 km first-phase of the metro service is likely to be completed by this year-end and its second phase of 76 km by 2022, connecting east-west and south-north areas of the burgeoning cosmopolitan city.

“The suburban service will be executed in phases at a cost of Rs.9,000 crore by the railways, with the state government providing land and other support facilities. As planned, the metro service will operate through the three terminals, connecting suburban and long distance passengers,” George said at a review meeting with the urban transport and SWR officials on February 16.

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