Bengaluru hails Union Budget announcement suburban train service

Bengaluru: Citizen groups and commuters from Bengaluru on Thursday hailed the Union Budget for proposing a suburban train service to cater to the city’s growth.A

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced the planning of a suburban network of 160 km at an estimated cost of Rs 17,000 crore to the city, as part of his speech presenting the Union Budget for 2018-19.

“We have been fighting for a suburban rail for almost 20 years now, we hope that with the Union Budget making a mention of it, the train service will be done this year,” Krishna Prasad, a member of the Karnataka Railway Association, told IANS here.

The train service is expected to benefit at least 30 lakh passengers each day from the city and surrounding towns, who travel to Bengaluru on a daily basis for work.

The South Western Railway had suggested the project to cover areas like Baiyappannahalli in the eastern part of the city to Whitefield, Yeshvantpur in the northwestern suburb to Nelamangala on the city outskirts among other routes.

The train service is expected to be run over elevated rail corridors in sections where land acquisition is not possible.

“The project was held up for many years due to the lack of political will, and due to the huge costs involved, but the move is definitely helpful for the city,” Prasad added.

However, certain citizen groups also expressed their doubts over the implementation of the project.

“The mention of the suburban train project is devoid of any details in the Budget, which makes us slightly sceptical. But, with a clear announcement of a special purpose entity to handle the project, we are optimistic,” volunteer coordinator for people’s forum “Citizens for Bengaluru” Srinivas Alavilli told IANS here.

The move could be to woo voters ahead of the state polls, but would still benefit the commuters hugely, added Srinivas.

“The central government has finally understood what the voters from the state, and Bengaluru, in particular, want and need. This is a project that the city needed a decade ago to cater to its growing population,” he said.

Acquiring land to build the stations and for the rail corridors will be a huge challenge to the city in the current day, Srinivas said.

Last year, the Railway Ministry and the Karnataka government had agreed to jointly fund the suburban train service.

The project should be shared on a 50:50 per cent basis by the central and the state governments, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had said.

The project needs to be taken on a public-private partnership to go on fast track, averred V. Ravichandar, an urban infrastructure expert and chairman of research and consulting firm Feedback Consulting, at a Budget-viewing session held here by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci).