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Bengaluru may get suburban rail in early 2018

Bengaluru: If all goes as planned, Namma City may take its first steps towards having a suburban rail on the lines of Mumbai in early 2018.

On Thursday, Union Minister of Statistics and Programme Implementation D V Sadananda Gowda said four mainline electric multiple unit (MEMU) trains will be operated as suburban/local trains by December 2017.

However, Darpan Jain, commissioner of the directorate for urban land transport (DULT), said the new coaches will be available with the state government and Bengaluru division of South Western Railways (SWR) only by March 2018.

Gowda met Bengaluru Development Minister K J George and officials from South-Western Railways (SWR), Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT) and Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation (BMRC) on Thursday to discuss the hurdles in implementing the project.

Recently, Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu had spoken of technical difficulties in executing the SPV (special purpose vehicle) to implement the suburban rail project, much to the consternation of suburban rail activists.

But on Thursday, Gowda agreed to support the state and speed up coordination between the railway minister and state government. "Everybody in Karnataka and Bengaluru wants suburban rail to start functioning as early as possible. We are here to accelerate the project. We will finalize three of the proposals within a month. Formation of the SPV is one of the three, where the Centre will pay 20 per cent, state 20% and avail loans for the rest. But the worry is who will repay the loans - the Centre or state? That is what it all boils down to."

The state granted Rs 347 crore for replacing 30 Diesel Electrical Multiple Unit (DEMU) trains with new MEMU ones, which is expected to be tendered shortly, and the estimated delivery is March 2018. "However, the SWR will float global tenders and ensure procurement happens on time. The new trains will have additional capacity of ferrying 30,000 more commuters," said Jain.

A proposal of building a suburban rail link between Yeshwantpur to Kempegowda International Airport via Yelahanka was discussed and the state government offered to fund the feasibility test and report.

The SWR plans to expand Byappanahalli railway station by three platforms in the first phase of making it a world-class station by December 2018, and will add four more platforms in the second phase. Also, SWR said that it has given many new suburban services in past six months: New services between Bengaluru and Ramanagra, Bengaluru-Whitefield and Bengaluru-Kuppam among other services.

The meeting, among other things, discussed visit of State government representatives to New Delhi to meet the Railway Minister Shri Suresh Prabhu and other Railway Board Officials to discuss the proposal in detail in a few weeks from now. The state government has already sent a draft related to setting up of a Special Purpose Vehicle in this regard.

Sadananda Gowda observed that the completion of Phase one of Metro Rail service has resulted in decongestant the city's traffic to some extent. Suburban Rail System is the need of the hour for the city and it would be implemented at the earliest. To start with 15 trains could be converted into Mainline Electric Multiple Unit (MEMU) so that the carrying capacity of the existing passengers could be doubled. This would lead to reducing the traffic congestion to about 40 per cent, he felt stressing that the state, the centre and the Railways should work in tandem to realise the project.

Bangalore Central Parliament Member P C Mohan, Urban Development Additional Chief Secretary Mahendra Jain, Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Managing Director Pradeep Singh Kharola, South Western Railway General Manager A K Gupta, Divisional Railway Manager R S Saxena and others attended the meeting.

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