Implementing Suburban Rail - SPV Model!
Last Friday, News9 / TV9's aired a live 'Panel Discussion on Namma Railu' with Dr. Sitharam (CiSTUP), Smt. Sumithra Iyengar (BCIC), our friend Mr. Muralidhar Rao (Preseident - Praja-RAAG) and myself as a blogger on Namma Railu.
The first 12 minutes or so was very elegantly done video on proposed suburban rail project for Bengaluru with what the govt has approved and some reality check on much acclaimed benefits of daily commute by train. I recommend everybody to watch this video.
For next 80 Mins or so, various aspects of the Namma Railu, aka Suburban Rail project proposals were discussed threadbare. It was very informative and lively discussion with everybody listening attentively to others. Credit also goes to the TV9 show anchors Mr. Harish Updahaya and his co-anchor. They kept the focus of the discussion and asked all the relevant questions.
From the discussion and listening to recording twice thereafter, I realized there are 2 issues that were raised in the discussion and it requires a detailed response, which was not possible in the limited time in the program.
The 2 questions were,
- Last mile connectivity
- Chances of successful project implementation in the light of usual delays in public utlity project
Having answered the first one, let me take this opportunity to shed some light on the second one here.
The proposed 'Suburban Rail Service' for Bengaluru is based on using the existing railway infrastructure, i.e. Tracks, Signaling, Maintenance, Operations, Ticketing etc. on a sharing basis. It is both a smart use of infrastructure as well as challenging one to implement. The challenge comes from the fact that, since it is going to be a shared infrastructure, Indian Railways has to be involved in every step of planning and design. From railways perspective, their priority is long distance train operations.Suburban operations will become a lower priority to them. The needs of suburban rail service are different from long distance train service. Therefore the traditional way of project execution in railways will not suit. Moreover the traditional project execution requires internal funding from Railways/Govt. Given the railways finances, going traditional route will be a non-starter.
How do we overcome this? Konkan Railway, DMRC and MRVC shows the way to implement project like Bengaluru suburban rail service. All these 3 are executed on the SPV - Special Purpose Vehicle model with majority of the funding from external financial institutions.
RITES SPV Model for Bengaluru Suburban Rail Service
Here is a presentation illustrating the SPV model that RITES has recommended in its 2012 report.