There was a news the other day that the Karnataka State Government is showing keen interest in developing suburban network around Bangalore and proposed Indian Railways to be an active partner.
There was also a news a few days back that there is drop in the sale of Rail tickets in 0-100 km category. It was stated by Member Traffic/Railway Board that booking in long distance journey has not been affected. The fall in ticket booking has been noticed in short journeys. This is making to happen the way Indian Railway has decided its priority neglecting marketing effort for sub-urban demand. Sub-urban demand is getting diverted to Road for the fundamental reason of convenience. There is no development plan in this category of rail business because of the strong belief that this is a loss making business. It is important for Indian Railways to come out of this misconception and innovate to prove that this is in the best interest of nation and civilization. The State Govt. and passenger shall contribute to make it a financially viable system.
When passenger business was going down all over the world and tilting in favor of road and air, Railways initiated marketing strategies. This should be done even when going is well. This is the right time for Indian Railways to project the benefits of rail transport to passenger, planners, policy makers. It is only for this reason that urban transport has been able to garner funding at the rate of Rs. 350 Crs/Km and Indian Railways running pillar to post even for up gradation of its system. Points for marketing strategy are
- That it is for sustainable development. Rail uses the best mode of energy for transportation i.e. diesel or electricity. The road is trying its best to go for electric vehicle whereas the same is available with ease in electric traction. Tomorrow when renewable sources of energy are developed for economic use, rail transport is in the best place to make use of it for transport purpose.
- That it is for energy efficient. Based on many studies it has been proved beyond any doubt that rail transport is six times energy efficient. It is possible regenerate 30 % traction energy thus making it more favorable to adopt.
- That it is the safest way of transport. As per the advertisement issued by the Transport Ministry, there is one death every four minutes and one road incident every minute. Railways is also not devoid of accidents but insignificant as compared to road.
- That sudden application of brake to save an accident is very common in road transport. Watching such incident in front of your eyes raises adrenaline level, stimulating heart rate, contracting blood vessels and dilating air passages, all of which work to increase blood flow to the muscles and oxygen to the lungs. This is for some extent potentially life threatening condition.
- That rail uses minimum surface area per passenger kilo-meter of travel.
- That unless sub-urban demand is fulfilled, it will be difficult get the support for high speed network. It is the sub-urban network which provides connectivity to high speed network.
When Railways fail to provide satisfactory infrastructure for sub-urban demand, the pressure of local bodies builds up on State Govt. The most convenient option for the state Govt. is to depend and develop road transport, a win-win situation for all stakeholders like passenger, road transport operator, politicians, business person, car industry and even banks providing loan for purchase of cars etc. Construction of highways at the cost of Rs. 20 Crs/Km provides more votes for the ruling party then rail track and the State Government has all along been comfortable in building road network.
Proposals from State Governments
Mumbai was the first to start action for development and improvement of Sub-urban network resulting creation of MRVC with 50% share each by State and Railways. This is followed by a proposal from Kerala State Govt. and now by Karnataka State Govt. on similar lines. Look at the Rail Network around Bangalore and judge for yourself, the wonderful opportunity to improve the network and meet the demand of sub-urban habitats.
There are six sub-urban directions from where the route converges at Bangalore. The State government had initiated a feasibility study by M/s RITES to understand the capacity constraints of the existing railway infrastructure. On the basis of RITES’s report, the government has already initiated action for preparation of a detailed report for the first phase of the project, setting up of Bangalore Suburban Railway Company Ltd. and acquisition of Binny Mill’s land for the project. The project cost is 8759 Crs. of which State Govt. will provide funding the extent of 50%.
The project to be implemented in three phases as follows: Phase 1 will focus on areas where demand is very high and phase 2 on the remaining places. In phase 3, the focus will be on additional halts and increasing the number of cars in each rake from nine to 15.
Phase 1 would involve electrification of some stretches, setting up an automatic signalling system, investment in facilities at terminals and rolling stock. This work would be classified as phase 1A for which the estimated cost is about Rs. 950 crore. It would cover Bangalore–Mysore, Bangalore–Bangarpet and Bangalore–Tumkur sectors.
An investment of Rs. 173 crore needs to be made in the Mysore and Bangarpet sectors, which includes Rs. 105 crore on five rakes of mainline electrical multiple units (MEMU) and construction of additional pit lines at Byappanahalli and Yeshwantpur stations.
The Bangalore–Tumkur sector has a double line, but it is yet to be electrified and requires an automatic signalling system. The total investment in this sector, including maintenance sheds for MEMUs, would come to Rs. 777 crore.
Once operational, the study says that phase 1A to generate about six lakh trips per day on the suburban network. Once all three phases are completed, the figure would go up to about 25 lakh trips per day. (This is based on the news report)
How Indian Railways is benefited?
Indian Railways has decided long back not to venture in Urban transport due to non-viability of funding. When Ms Mamta Banergee was at the helm of affairs, Indian Railways was asked or forced to own Kolkata Metro Rail projects which initially on cost share basis and later completed forced upon on Indian Railways. Now it is a different story that the projects have come to a standstill. There are eight projects as appearing in Indian Railway year book
Sl. No. Section Km Sanctioned Cost Year of Sanction Target Ratio of Sharing
- Noapara-Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Airport 6.40Km 184.83 2009-10 2013-14 IR
- Dum Dum-Noapara-Baranagar 5.20Km 411.06 2009-10 2015-16 IR
- Noapara-Barasat via Bimanbandar 18Km 2,397.72 2010-11 2015-16 IR
- Baranagar-Barrackpore & Dakshineshwar 14.5Km 2,069.60 2010-11 2015-16 IR
- Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Airport-New Garia via Rajarhat 32Km 3,951.98 2010-11 2015-16 IR
- Joka-B B Dinesh Bagh and Joka-Diamond Park Phase-I 18.72Km 2,913 2010-11 2015-16 IR
- E-W Metrocorridor HWH-Salt lake-Maidan 14.67Km 4,874 2012-13 2015-16 Not decided
- Extension of Circular Railway from Remount Road to Santoshpur via Garden Reach
Is Indian Railway looking for such a situation to arise when MR belonging to the same State forces the issue? In fact, Indian Railways shall make use of such opportunities to improve funding position and take up development of sub-urban network. They should not forget the advantage that accrues to Railways
- That the maximum speed of all long distance trains comes down drastically when enters into sub-urban network. This is the best opportunity to create improve infrastructure for barrier free run of long distance trains.
- That owning 6 lakhs passenger per day on your network creates excellent opportunity for real estate development and generates alternate sources of funding.
- That State Government initiating the project means opportunity to negotiate for land acquisition, better electricity tariff etc.
- Convert two lines to three or four lines without loop, automatic signalling, electrification, three phase MEMUs with regeneration etc. for laminar movement of trains like Mumbai Sub-urban.
- In view of political compulsion, it may be difficult to raise fare across the board, but a surcharge can be imposed on specific section to fund the project. Precedence of this already exists for Mumbai Sub-urban. The passengers are unlikely to objects hoping for improvement in a long run.
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