City's wait for suburban railway network gets longer

Published: Dec 01, 2011, 06:42 IST | Johnlee Abraham

Three decades after announcement, project still in limbo as existing railway routes cannot accommodate local trains

Three decades after announcement, project still in limbo as existing railway routes cannot accommodate local trains

Suburban trains, known as the lifeline of transportation in cities like Mumbai and Chennai, still remain a distant dream for Bangaloreans.

Railways say that the existing routes are already burdened with heavy traffic and accommodating local trains on the same would be very difficult

Three decades have passed since the railways announced the project in 1982, but it still lies buried in mounds of dust-caked files.

Railways U-turn
But when the state government along with the railways announced this July that work would begin on four suburban routes in the city within six months, it rekindled the hope of the traffic-choked city of getting its lifeline.

Now, the railways, which has been incurring staggering losses in operating suburban trains in Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, has done a U-turn.

The railways have revealed that they are not very keen on the city's suburban trains project as the existing routes already have heavy traffic and accommodating local trains on the same would be very difficult.

But the state government is still pushing for suburban trains and has also offered Rs 5 crore to railways for the project.

"We have offered all sorts of help. We are ready to help them in the procurement of rakes and will even bear the cost of building some pit lines for servicing the rakes which would need an investment of Rs 5 crore," said Rajkumar Khatri, Secretary, Infrastructure Development Department (IDD).

At present, the government is interested in getting the four routes up and running. These suburban routes are Yelahanka-Baiyyappanahalli-Hosur; Chikkaballapur-Nelamangala; Nayandahalli-Mandya; Baiyyappanahalli-Whitefield-Bangarpet.

"Once the local trains start chugging down these lanes, roads will automatically get decongested. Over 30 lakh commuters will be benefited," Khatri said.

An official from South Western Railways has revealed that the railway's existing lines are full. "We can undertake the project, but then our existing lines are already full.
And besides that, the state would need to have a special purpose vehicle (SPV) as we can't handle it all on our own," said a junior official from SWR on conditions of anonymity.

Survey in progress
He added, "At present the Railways have taken up a survey on the route. It will be completed only by March 2012 following which the report will be submitted to the sate government and only after that any progress can be expected."

No infrastructure
When MiD DAY confronted the railways over the issue, senior officials accepted the fact that its lines are overloaded.

"Right now the infrastructure we have is only fit for long distance trains and accommodating the local routes will be very difficult.

But we are cooperating with the state government on finding out ways to make the local services possible, keeping the present infrastructure in mind," said S Mani, Divisional Regional Manager, SW Railway.

Mani also added that efforts are being made to get the survey report on the project by February 2012. If the current situation is considered, it seems like the Bangaloreans would have to wait for a long time before they get their long-cherished 'lifeline'.

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