Citizen activists demand that the K’taka government not drag its feet over the suburban rail project.

 First we want trains Bluru citizen activists to launch campaign for suburban railRepresentational image
news Civic Issues Thursday, August 23, 2018 - 16:50

A rail yatra from Yeshwantpur to Carmelaram as part of Modalu Train Beku (First, we want trains) campaign will be organised on August 31 afternoon to reiterate the demand of fast-tracking the suburban rail system in Bengaluru. Activists part of the Citizens for Bengaluru (CfB), which spearheaded the Steel Flyover Beda campaign, and other like-minded apolitical citizen groups are set to take part in the exercise to signal to the political class the popularity of mass transport.

“This is a way to send the message to the government that the citizens are very enthusiastic and eager that the train is commissioned. This is also a way to put pressure on the government to set up the SPV (special purpose vehicle) and prioritise spending on suburban rail,” said Tara Krishnaswamy, co-founder of CfB.

She pointed out that currently there are 2 lakh people taking the trains without proper access-lack of feeder buses, foot overbridges and unlit railway stations. The drive will be held more than a month after Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy stated that a SPV will be “set up soon”.

Tara along with others in CfB met Chief Secretary Vijay Bhaskar earlier on Thursday, on the same issue. “We got a positive response and he had asked for specific points that needs to be addressed,” Tara said. Many other forums like Bellandur Rising, Bangalore Apartment Federation, Tamil Nadu Rail Users Forum, Bengaluru along with RWAs is expected to take part.  

Read: Bengaluru citizens cry Chuku Buku Beku, launch rail yatra demanding suburban trains

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This rail yatra will be similar to the one in December 2016, as a part of the Chuku Buku Beku campaign. The campaign was instrumental in bringing the conversation of utilising existing rail tracks in and around the city to ease the city’s infamous traffic mess.

Responding to the spontaneous success of the campaign both the BJP at the Centre and Congress at the state had announced new trains and allocations for suburban rail in both state and Union budgets.

However, the formation of a Special Purpose Vehicle— similar to that of the Bangalore Metro Rail Company Limited (BMRCL) needed to streamline the entire process is long overdue.

Reports on Thursday indicate that the SPV owned 51% by the state and 49% by the Centre is likely to be set up by the end of next month as senior railway officials and state government have reached a consensus over having no private company being part of the project.

Tara termed this as a “good news” with the Centre proposing to increase its stake up to 49% from an initial position of 20%. She insisted that this was not the time for the state government to “drag its feet” but instead expedite the process.

Sanjeev Dhyamanavar, a long-time suburban train crusader and a transportation expert at Prajaa, said, “Once the SPV is operational, projects will be streamlined and funds will flow.”

Like the 2016 drive which came in the wake of the state government’s push for the controversial steel bridge project, this rail yatra also comes after the Bengaluru Development Minister G Parameshwara stated that the Rs 33,000 crores worth 100-km elevated corridor project won’t be shelved in a recent interview.

Incidentally, the steel bridge project, a part of the elevated corridors project, was called off by the Siddaramaiah government in the face of massive opposition from citizen activism and litigations.

CfB along with others including subject-matter experts like Ashish Verma, an expert on sustainable transportation at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru argue that the elevated corridors project would prove counterproductive as the present growth rate of vehicles means the new roads will also be clogged by the time it is entirely built.

Instead, they say the solution lies in using public transport and in the process reduce the vehicle density on the road. They advocate suburban rail in addition to the metro and buses to be a much cheaper and sustainable answer not only to the city ’s traffic mess but also rising vehicular pollution.

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