Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that the Bengaluru suburban transport project would cost Rs 18,600 crore, with the Centre providing 20% equity.

Budget 2020 Bengaluru suburban rail finds mention yet again but will it kick-off soon
news Budget 2020 Saturday, February 01, 2020 - 16:22

In a traffic-dense city like Bengaluru, its residents have long demanded the construction of a suburban rail network. For the last 37 years the residents of the city have demanded the construction of the suburban rail and yet, successive governments have ignored the demand.

On Saturday, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that the Bengaluru suburban transport project would cost Rs 18,600 crore and that the Centre would provide 20% equity.

“The 148-km long Bengaluru Suburban transport project at a cost of Rs 18,600 crore, would have fares on metro model. Central government would provide 20% of equity and facilitate external assistance up to 60% of the project cost,” Nirmala Sitharaman said.

This mention in the Budget speech comes after several activists lobbying for better public transport demanded that the Central government allocate funds for the project.

Announcing project cost not a new move

This is not the first time the BJP-led Centre has made an announcement on the suburban rail project. Despite mentions in the last two budget speeches, the project has failed to kick off.

In his budget speech in the 2018-2019 fiscal, then Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced that the project would cost Rs 17,000 crore. Arun Jaitely had announced the project in the budget but there were no other specifications about how much of the cost the Centre and state would each have to bear.

In the 2019-2020 Budget, the project was allocated only Rs 10 crore by FM Niirmala Sitharaman.   

In November 2019, the extended Railway Board approved the suburban rail project that was announced for the project in the 2018-19 fiscal. This was sent to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, whose approval is required for the funds to be released.

“The Finance Ministry has not yet approved the project. Only when it does will the Cabinet Committee for Economic Affairs okay it. This will take another eight to nine months to come through and we will not be seeing any movement regarding the project this year. There is no point in making announcements when there is no action. With the new announcement, new clearances will have to take place. Let them approve the funds first,” said Sanjeev Dyammannavar, an urban mobility expert, who fought for the movement to bring about the suburban rail in Bengaluru.

Political blame game

Despite the slow progress, BJP’s Deputy Chief Minister Dr CN Ashwath Narayan, tweeted that announcement was a welcome move. “Bengaluru's urban transport system gets a shot in the arm. The 148 KM Bengaluru Suburban Rail Network has been announced in the budget with a massive outlay of Rs. 18,300 Crores!! Kudos to Narendra Modi ji for this move,” Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister Ashwath Narayan said.

Reacting to this, the Congress accused Ashwath Narayan of lying. “Stop lying Minister. Rs 18,300 crore is the total project cost and we have known that for years now. What's the exact amount allocated for Bengaluru Suburban Rail in this year?” tweeted Srivatsa of the Congress.

The suburban rail project is a dedicated service for Bengaluru and aims to build four corridors: Kengeri-Whitefield, KSR Bengaluru City- Rajanukunte, Nelamangala-Baiyappanahalli and Heelalige-Devenahalli. The revised DPR of the project states that it will include 57 stations and will have a 148 km railway network.  



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