Suburban Rail Project reaches Final Leg, Cabinet to give its Nod in One Month

Bengaluru: The Extended Railway Board (ERB) met on Monday evening with an agenda to give clearance to the 30-year-old demand of implementing a Mumbai-like suburban rail project for Bengaluru. The Rs 16,000 crore project — which has already received a clearance from the State Government in August this year — will now go before the Ministry of Finance and the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs for the final nod. 

“In order to fast track the #BengaluruSuburbanRail, the Extended Railway Board met today & has given its clearance. In this regard, I assure the people of Bengaluru that Shri @PiyushGoyal Ji & I shall make all efforts to ensure the project is brought to fruition at the earliest,” Union Minister of State of Railways Suresh Angadi announced on Twitter. 

Sources said that the meeting went on for one hour from 4pm. While the Karnataka Rail Infrastructure Development Company (K-RIDE) officials were getting ready to make a presentation, Railway Board Chairman Vinod Kumar Yadav is said to have told the officials to keep it short, stating that he was already aware of the project. 

As per the officials, the Rs 16,000 crore project consists of four dedicated suburban railway corridors, spreading over 148-kms. The project will have 57 stations. While the State and the Centre will bear 20% each of the total project cost, the special purpose vehicle K-RIDE will be tasked with the responsibility of raising the remaining 60% through private investments and borrowings. 

The four corridors are: KSR Bengaluru City to Devanahalli, Baiyappanahalli to Chikkabanavara, Kengeri to Whitefield and Hilalige to Rajanakunte. All these stretches will have two separate tracks for suburban services, while the existing lines will only be used for long-distance trains. 

What needs to be done?

Besides the approval from the Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs which the officials expect to happen in a month’s time, the K-RIDE will also have to complete a long list of preliminary paperwork before the SPV even plans to float tenders for the construction work. 

  • Just like the Metro, K-RIDE requires to first set up a full-fledged office and recruit officers who are well-versed in areas such as civil engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, signalling, safety, finance, human resource etc. 
  • K-RIDE is expected to hire a Detailed Design Consultant for the design of architectural, planning, structural, building services, O/M etc. 
  • The 148-km project requires about 600 acres of land, a majority of the identified land belongs to the Railways. There is no clarity on the land acquisition plan including the creation of a seperate land acquiring body. 
  • The Special Purpose Vehicle also requires a separate permission from the Centre to raise funds. While the process of borrowing from domestic banks is easier, it comes with a high interest rate and short term repayment options. Raising loan from international lenders, however, requires permission of the Centre and the approval takes a longer time, although it is easy to repay. 
  • Once the K-RIDE acquires at least half the land and raises enough funds, the utility is expected to go ahead with floating bids for the construction work. The construction itself is likely to take 5-6 years as some of the railway corridors will be elevated. Another one year goes in for the electrification, signalling and telecommunication works etc. 

In the meanwhile, regular rail service users are demanding short-term measures including introduction of additional suburban services and infrastruture support, given the fact that it will take several years for Bengaluru to witness full-fledged Mumbai-like railway services.