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The only step left now is clearance from the Union cabinet.

Railway Board clears long-awaited Bengaluru suburban rail project
news Transport Monday, November 04, 2019 - 19:06

Decades after it was first proposed, a dedicated suburban railway service for Bengaluru was approved by the Extended Railway Board (ERB) of the Indian Railways on Monday.

The development was confirmed by Bengaluru Central MP PC Mohan to TNM. He also said the Railway Board Chairman Vinod Kumar Yadav is also likely to fly down to Bengaluru in the coming days to meet Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa.

Speaking on the same, Bengaluru South MP Tejasvi Surya said, “This is an important bureaucratic milestone. We have achieved the penultimate step. Now, this will be submitted for approval from the cabinet committee."

The announcement comes after various citizen groups in the city persistently asked authorities to start the service as a solution to the city’s growing traffic problem, especially in the high density IT Corridor along the Outer Ring Road. Even in the run-up to the railway board meeting, there was a Twitter campaign by Bengaluru activists. Cities like Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai already have suburban railway services.

“The service will benefit more than a crore people, not only those living in Bengaluru but also those from nearby towns and villages who travel daily to the city and back. Moreover, this will also minimise vehicular pollution and congestion in the city,” Rajkumar Dugar, Convenor of the NGO Citizens 4 Citizens, said.

Read: Bengaluru suburban rail services to airport likely to start before 2020

Rajkumar added, “It now awaits the final clearance from the Union cabinet and we hope all our MPs will ensure quick approval and subsequent fast-tracking of this project.”

The conversation on suburban railways was re-ignited by various citizen-led campaigns like Chuku Buku Beku and Modalu Train Beku. Responding to the campaigns, both the BJP at the Centre and Congress at the state had announced new trains and allocations for a suburban service in both the state and Union budgets.

However, despite an announcement by Railway Minister Piyush Goyal in February ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the promise remained unfulfilled. In May, the PMO suggested changes in the Rs 22,242 crore plan mutually agreed by the state and Centre.

Srinivas Alavilli, the co-founder of Citizens for Bengaluru, which led these campaigns, said, “It is heartening to hear that the ERB has cleared the project today, though it’s extremely frustrating that this has been delayed for decades. There is some clarity now that there were certain objections that came from the PMO and Niti Ayog, and those were the reasons why the project report had to be revised.”

“The real benefit that Bengaluru can get from the Railways in the short term is that if they can run a few local short-distance trains using the existing infrastructure and implement ideas like setting up halt stations in places like Maratahalli. Initiatives that work closely with BMTC to ensure bus connectivity from these stations will ensure that thousands of cars are off the Outer Ring Road. Once the project is fully functional, it will surely help lakhs and lakhs of people," he added.

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