After years of lobbying by Praja, CiSTUP (Centre for Infrastructure, Sustainable Transport and Urban Planning, Indian Institute of Science) and Directorate of Urban Land and transport (DULT), Commuters Railway Services (CRS) has got primary approval from the state government on July 5th, 2013.
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Chief Minister Siddaramaiah announced this in state budget too. He said that the project will make use of Special Purpose Vehicle that will be floated under the name Bangalore Suburban Rail Corporation Limited. He also sanctioned Rs.200 crore for construction of 29 underbridges and overbridges for railway across the city where the tracks intersect roads.
A feasibility report prepared by Rail India Technical and Economical Search (RITES) in 2012 was pending approval with the BJP government. The present government headed by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah accepted the feasibility report on CRS.
He has directed the DULT to prepare a Detailed Report Project of Phase 1A – Bangalore City-Nayandahalli-Jnanabharathi-Kengeri-Hejjala-Bidadi-Ramanagara and Bangalore City-Bangalore Cantonment -Bangalore East- K R Puram-Whitefield-Devanagonthi-Malur. It will approximately cost Rs. 174 crore.
According to RITES phase 1A requires five Mainline Electric Multiple Unit rakes, which means trains. Further it needs making twin single line system for Bangalore City Station to Bangalore Cantonment and automatic signalling for Bangalore City Station to Baiyyapanahalli and development of four pit lines at Baiyyapanahalli and two pit lines at Yeswanthapur.
Detailed Project Report on its way
DULT has no plans to hurry up with the DPR. It is expected to be completed latest by December 2013, say sources.
V Manjula, Commissioner, DULT, asserted that state government has shown its willingness towards the CRS and has asked to formulate the Detailed Project Report (DPR).
RITES has carried out a complete analytical study on Indian Railways focusing Bangalore. The report suggests improvisation and correction of shortcomings existing in the Railway, said Muralidhar Rao, President of the Praja.
Muralidhar Rao, who lobbied for the CRS since the day one, lauded the positive steps taken by the state government. Facilities of the existing railway are under-utilised which is sheer waste of land, says the RITES report, he remarks. In Bangalore City Junction, trains are scheduled with half an hour or more gap. Some platforms like the platform no. 2, 3, 4 are completely under-utilised.
Complete electrification and automatic signals and relocation of pit lines that are squashed between two platforms at Bangalore Station are highly recommended by RITES, he explains. Pit lines are washing lines with open pit at base used for dumping. They are used for cleaning and maintenance purpose, before the train makes its next journey.
He adds that the CRS will not only help increase the mobility but will also help in the development of the outskirts of the city, as more and more real estate developers will show interest in the far flung properties due to easy accessibility. This will reduce the congestion and the burden in the city and housing prices will also come down.
Sources from the DULT pointed that the state government clealy intends to have the CRS. Now it is the turn of Central Authority and the Indian Railways to play its role. Only the feasibility report is cleared. The DPR is yet to be sanctioned and negotiated with the Railway board. However, CRS has reached its second stage.
Railway’s reasons to oppose the project
Prakash Mandoth, Executive member of Zonal Railway Users Consultative Commitee of Southern and South- Western Railway, says that there should be no more delay in signing the MoU. If it is delayed, he says, that the cost will escalate due to rise in the cost of the construction materials.
Prakash Mandoth filed many letters to the Ministry of Indian Railway and Southern Railway suggesting them to use the existing tracks more efficiently and asking for introduction of Diesel Electric Multiple Unit (DEMU) and Mainline Electric Multiple Unit (MEMU).
In reply to one of his letters dated, 26th June 2013, C S Gupta, Deputy General Manager of Southern Railway cited reasons why Bangalore cannot have CRS of its own.
The reasons are:
Bangalore has only two terminals – Bangalore station and Yesvantpur station. Their connecting routes are oversaturated , there is an acute shortage of platform and there is no infrastructure facility for maintenance of DEMU and MEMU etc. Therefore it is not possible to introduce DEMU and MEMU from Bangalore to different stations.
MEMU: Mainline Electric Multiple Unit requires overhead electric lines and makes use of electricity drawn from a centralised electrical unit. Incase of Bangalore, electricity is drawn from BESCOM’s low power shed. It draws 33 KV which is reduced to 24 KV. MEMU trains make use of two cabs, one in front and the other at rear exactly like a locomotive. It is mostly used suburban areas. Best example of this is Mumbai’s and Kolkata’s locals which have separate and completely dedicated suburban lines. Bangalore doesn’t have separate suburban electric lines. Depending on the passenger traffic suburban electric lines will be implemented. Divisional Electric Engineer of Southern Railway, Ravi Shankar says, DEMU and MEMU run at an equal speed.
What type of motor: Diesel or Electric?
Sources in DULT say that diesel motor units are not feasible, they require storage and maintenance. Indian Railways will not pay much attention to it as they are in the process of winding up the facilities. Electrified motors are affordable and efficient. Their maintenance cost is low but they run at a faster speed and are reliable than diesel motors.
Prakash Mandoth counters this argument, saying that alignment required for CRS is in place already. They just need to put up few extra lines. According to his expertise, the Phase 1 A requires no waiting. The facilities required for Phase 1A like the tracks or platforms are already laid. All that is needed is to build a station line, increase the services on those lines and 1 or 1.5 km approach road for the passengers to reach the station and other basic amenities. Similar suggestions are shared by many people on the Praja website.
Adding further C.S. Gupta says that South Western Railway paid heed to public demand and Infrastructure Development Department, Government of Karnataka and has introduced two pairs of special trains for morning and evening hours between Yeswanthpur and Hosur. One pair of special passenger train was initiated between Yeswanthpur and Devanahalli.
A loss-making service?
Finance Administration and Chief Accounts Officer of South Western Railway (HQ), J. Vishwanathan says: “Nowhere in the country CRS is making profit. If we plan to take CRS in Bangalore we will go into losses further.” Commuter Rail Service is a hit among the commuters but it is a loss-making service, he indicates.
Acknowledging the Indian Railways point of view, Muralidhar says that, it is true that nowhere in the world CRS is making profit, but the government needs to look at the social need. Neither Metro nor CRS is profit making. Metro is costing Rs. 350 crore per kilometer, while CRS cost Rs. 20 crore which is just approximately four per cent of the total cost of Metro.
If the government overlooks the loss that will be incurred in Metro, then why is it looking with a profit motive perspective at CRS? asks Muralidhar. Metro can highly congest the city. Construction of metro will allow high rise buildings along the Metro track, thus increasing the problems related to traffic, air and water. A city like Bangalore needs CRS to spread the growth to distant areas, he argues.
He believes cheap ticket fares, increasing cost of maintenance and mismanagement by the Indian Railways are the reasons for CRS to become a loss-making service.
At times there is a need to increase prices for mobility, but such issues get politicised and the prices are rolled back instantly, regrets Muralidhar.
Finally on the move
CRS will move ahead under Bangalore Suburban Rail Corporation Limited once the government gives a final nod to the DPR. Accordingly stakeholders will be invited, confirmed sources from DULT.
DULT is looking forward to make CRS more city-centric. They have suggested to formulate DPR with four corridors as against the seven corridors suggested by RITES. Along with the extension of new tracks, old tracks will also be put to use across the city.
On one hand DULT will push forward the services and on the other hand upgradation will be done. Existing corridors will reduce the investment. But at the end approval will be required from the Central Government.
DULT is waiting for the DPR as it will allow assessment of the facilities identified in the feasibility study – the possibility, and the efficiency.