Commuter Rail meetings with Mr Ananth Kumar, Mr V Madhu - report

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Commuter RailPublic Transport

Yesterday was kind of a big day for this project. Some of us met Mr V Madhu, Principal Secretary, Infrastructure Development Department, Govt of Karnataka. And Sanjeev managed a meeting with BJP MP, Mr Ananth Kumar.

Murali, blrsri, N, IDS and myself were there with Mr Madhu, spent about an hour with him, mostly listening to his thoughts. He seemed like a high energy guy. And as it happens in the most of these meetings, the ball was thrown back in our court. Mr Madhu asked us to return in a couple of weeks with a report carrying all our ideas on CRS and an actionable way.

Sanjeev too, from his meeting with Mr Ananth Kumar, got this task of getting back to him with a solid presentation on Commuter Rail for Bangalore.

So net net, good meetings, but now, we have some work to do. Let us log our detailed meeting reports here. IDS - request you to create a separate project task to build a presentation on CRS. We can send the same one to both Mr Ananth Kumar and Mr Madhu. Can send a detailed report (based on the presentation) to Mr Madhu a bit later.

Meanwhile, some pictures from the IDD meeting.


SB aka Pranav



Mr Madhu - meeting report

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Instead of a boring log, let me first write the highlights

  • The feeling when leaving his room - high energy guy, should work more with him.
  • Not so good - he spent first 20 minutes telling us about various transport projects, around that CTTP map. By the time we told him that we live and breathe this stuff, and know that PRR/ORR/Metro Phase 1/2, Corridors and Railway map by heart, we had already lost 20 minutes.
  • Good - shared details on execution problems, current state of things on commuter rail, and called in a few more relevant people to the meeting.
  • Output from the meeting - we need to hand him a report.

As things stand today, the cost sharing arrangement between GoK and SWR is a simple one - GoK pays for the rakes, SWR operates them. Other cost sharing options being considered are - state pays for the track widening, SWR operates commuter trains on new bandwidth.

But, there does not seem to be a clear operational plan with local/commuter focus. Idea (due to existing regulations)  is that SWR will operate the trains. With long distance transportation being focus area, we are not sure if SWR can give commuter rail the needed treatment, especially when city will soon get used to high quality operations like the Metro. We thought Mr Madhu gets it (that leaving it to IR/SWR alone will either lead to delay, or may not gve the city a quality commuting product). Now, how to create a structure where city gets to share operations (via a PPP, SPV, whatever) of commuter rail, Mr Madhu and Railways will be in the best position to think of legislations or changes to jurisdictions.

All in all, nice to meet IDD chief, high energy guy, lets get back to him to show that we are not one-meeting wonders, and we are real backers of CRS.

Points from Mr Madhu's meeting

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Let me state it is hard to have a result oriented conversation with busy people. Mr Madhu is one such person. Some major points

  1. GoK is willing to provide money for more trains as many as it takes for IR to run it. This has been the offer for more than 10 years now. It has been taken up hesitatingly now by IR. There is still money on the table ready for trains assuming IR will operate. Ball clearly on IR table
  2. Madhu was shocked I was asking for world class rolling stock (ayyo that is very expensive). I can only assume he doesnt want to pour that much money to Indian Railways considering they can very well screw up the whole project if they wish
  3. Madhu agreed CRS Operations by a thrid entity like an SPV or doing the whole thing on PPP can be considered. He needed to discuss this with IR COO Mr Goswami. Then again thinking aloud on the SPV & Konkan Railway model meant super long term project length per Mr Madhu, 10 years +
  4. Metro to all these places was ruled out by Madhu as there are jurisdictional issues and will need amendments etc.
  5. Madhu himself was thinking aloud if it is possible to lay tracks close to IR land but if land acquisition is involved it will become very expensive again. We did mention it may not be a problem beyond Byappanahlli but can be a problem between there & Yeswantpur/Kengeri. He is open to studying that.
  6. My suggestion of leasing/renting railway land was met with why would they do it? (I got the feeling then, there goes the CRS down the drain) 
  7. My point was there has to be a radically new way of structuring this so IR connectivity to existing towns was leveraged was met with the comment that  working relationship with IR is good but their internal process is long winded so he needs to think of options.
  8. My comments that there needed to be lots more stations & accessibility was met with. Yes Yes, let us know what you want in your report and I will commission a prefeasibility report to see what can be done

My takeway was this: is not going to be easy if somebody other than IR has to run it. If IR is running it then be prepared for a nam-ke-waastey service based on their whims & fancies. If GoK is going to put money on tracks, stations etc etc the arrangement has to ensure there is some control on ops by the SPV/PPP etc. IR running & GoK putting crores of investment for IR to screw up doesnt seem appealing to lots of people going by the track record.

 Yes it is hard work but the options of not doing CRS is nasty unsustainable growth of Bangalore setting a really bad example for the rest of the world. It is easier for everyone from administrators to politicians to wash their hands of Bengaluru and say its irreparable, but the citizens are not willing to give up on an ecosystem called Bengaluru which has some really great minds, that can change the world, living in it.

Uploaded some pictures

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... from our meeting with Mr Madhu, see the original post above.

Also, I am going to write to him today asking for a meeting on around June 16/17 to show him first version of our "report". Must get back to him ASAP to let him know that we have taken the bait of producing a "report".

Got some insights

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 Spoke to an ex IR friend.  He gave me some insights into this.

a. Railways core job is running trains.  They don't think of anything else - no last mile nothing.  

b. They don't like commuter trains because they are bleeders.  They are bleeders because of the absurdly low fares they charge.

IR will be interested if they can be part of an SPV.  SPVs are not constrained by some of these policies.  You can charge higher fares.

One option is to make an SPV with GoK, BMTC, IR, BBMP as partners (all stakeholders).  GoK led by IDD or Transport Minister tells IR that we want you to run CRS on these sections and we will pay you for the train and track usage.  SPV recovers this from passengers via higher fares and offering last mile connectivity (BMTC/KSRTC buses, autos, BMRC if there is a Metro station nearby).

Leave it to IR and they will run a destined-to-fail service.

He offered help in linking us to the Railway people in case we needed that.


Drive safe.  It is not just the car maker which can recall its product.

Realistic conflict theory

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 He offered help in linking us to the Railway people in case we needed that

We havent heard the railways side of the story. I am sure they will have something totally contradictory to tell on a CYA basis.

Anyways, with IR & GoK behaving like the Rattlers & Eagles of the Robbers Cave Experiment we need to really set superordinate goals in the demand report so they come together to acheive this goal for the people.

Railway to focus on Suburban Trains in Vision 2020 document

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Refer the following pages on the Indian Railway Vision Document, clearly telling out that Suburab Trains is going to be focus area for further improvement :


 Page 31 : d) Slow-moving Passenger Services

 Page 38  :Suburban services contributing 8% of the revenue year 2007-08

Page 74 : 4 Passenger Business Passenger business will be reorganized into three distinct segments, namely, fast intercity, slow-moving passenger and suburban. A separate organization for sub-urban business, replacement of conventional rolling-stock of the slow passengers by MEMU/DMUs and a range of fast services including high-speed services would be the thrust of the policy.Page 75    h) Adequate rolling stock would be inducted for suburban services. Air-conditioned EMUs would be introduced.

Indian Railway  has to provide the suburban services for different reasons.

@IDS         Yes it is hard work but the options of not doing CRS is nasty unsustainable growth of Bangalore setting a really bad example for the rest of the world. It is easier for everyone from administrators to politicians to wash their hands of Bengaluru and say its irreparable, but the citizens are not willing to give up on an ecosystem called Bengaluru which has some really great minds, that can change the world, living in it.

 As Citizens of Bangalore we are here to get the CRS service with all sorts of difficulty.  We will move ahead with positive hopes only

We need to have meeting with DRM  / SWR before submitting proposal to IDD as planned before 16/17th June.


meeting of ABIDe

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As the meeting for ABIDe date will take some time ,   its better we submit the first version of  CRS  report as suggested by Pranav by 16 / 17th June.

I have following observation on CRS with respect to IDD & BMLTA : 6th meeting of BMLTA  held on 18th Nov'2009 has given task to IDD :

Page 2  : 3. Sub-Committee on Commuter Rail System : IDD to undertake Feasibility Study for taking up Commuter Rails Service connecting all peripheral metro stations within 60 days.

BMLTA sub-committee 6th meeting held on 14th Dec'2009  where Mr V Madhu attended

Action :

1,. IDD to take up survey works to improve the capacity of the alignment of Yesvanthpur to Anekal

5. The IDD to take up traffic study in respect of Yesvanthpur to Devanhalli 

Their was another meeting on  25-03.2010 for BMLTA Sub-Committe BTTI where Mr V Madhu also has attaended  and presentation made by BCCF nekal

Above actions shows  now IDD is looking for detailed report on CRS  to be submitted for further discussion in BMLTA meetng and to take up with Railways.  So let us pool the inputs and  provide good inputs for IDD to proceed further.

Minister Ananthkumar meeting once again Railway Minister.

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Now public  to understand what Railway Minister is doing for Bangalore and Karnataka

I did ask him about suburban

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I did ask him about suburban rail on the FB interaction last afternoon. TV9 reported that Mr. Prabhu had directed officials to work on the same ASAP.

I had to log out as I  had something urgent to tend to on the work front. I don't know if he responded to my query.

Sanjeev, lets review

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Sanjeev /Syed /Sathya,

I did some checks on suburban rail in other cities - Chennai, Lucknow, etc. There is a suburban system in place between Lucknow & Kanpur & despite huge populations of 29+ lakhs in both these cities, services are low though the cities are only 72km apart. They have only eleven suburban trains between each daily. Of course there are many (84) long distance trains that stop at both stations. This info is as per indiarailinfo.

In comparison, there are 26 daily trains between Mysore (pop 9.9 lakhs) & Bangalore. Every other nearby town has very small population: Tumkur - 3.0 lakhs, Chikballapur - 0.6 lakhs, Dodballapur - 0.9 lakhs, Anekal - 0.4 lakhs, Ramanagara - 1.0 lakhs, Channapatna - 0.7 lakhs, Nelamangala - 0.4 lakhs.

Considering above, I think suburban rail will continue to be a non-starter if pushed for inter-city travel as the numbers were only 1.5 lakhs in 2012. Even if they start services, it will be of very low frequency - maybe four or six trains a day at best. The need is therefore to attract more urban or local commuters to make it viable, but this would require more stations within urban Bangalore.

As per our submission, we had recommened new stations & the list is attached below. Hoodi is coming up, but others are all non-starters so far.

I can see some spaces where stations can still be built. How about campaigning for more urban stations? Kasturinagar, Beniganahalli, Kaggadasapura, Karthik nagar, Marathalli, Sarjapur rd, Horamavu, Hennur, Thannisandra (improvement reqd), Jakkur east, HMT, Jalahalli-east, Gokula, Allalasandra, Sadarmangala - these, if built will change the viability for commuter rail drastically.



Hourly trains between Tumkur

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Hourly trains between Tumkur and Mysore from 6:00 AM to 11:00 PM could be part of a larger suburban rail system.  

Right now, a lot of trains terminating at SBC are being extended to Mysore. We need dedicated hourly services to Mysore from Jnanbharthi instead of SBC. A lot of people working in Bidadi/ Ramanagar and even GVC would not mind shifting to Mysore if the train journey is fast and hassle free. Currently, it takes us 2 hours to reach Mysore from KGI.  At times, travelling to Whitefield takes more time than travelling to Mysore from Kengeri.

Hourly trains from 6:00 AM to 11:00 PM between Bangarpet and Bangalore could be economically feasible if it serves the Whitefield junta.  Maybe, we need to tell GOK and Railways that Talgo could be used to run local trains as well.

The Yelahanka Channasandra stretch has been doubled. The doubling needs to be extended upto Byappanhalli so that it becomes easy to run DEMUs to KIAL on this stretch.

Not viable

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We have discussed this earlier & a summary has been posted above. Hourly trains to Mysore may be viable but not in any other direction as trains will run empty other than during peak hours.


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Viability is not a factor. Bangalore need not prove viability when Mumbai is not asked to do so. There is neccessity. When there are options, people will adopt. But govt and some people are opposed bcos of some personal biases.

Necessity within city

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Kindly read & understand the context properly before making comments. Necessity for commuter rail is within the city much more than for places outside. If hourly trains are operated from Ramnagaram or Tumkur, they will run empty almost all through the day except in peak hours & are hence unviable.

There seems to be 2 or more

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There seems to be 2 or more camps on design of commuter rail. I favor trains running about 60 km and not within the city. It will take sometime for them to mature, say 20 years. So it is not right to prove the viability from day one. There can be development in the future. Mahindra city is 60 km from Chennai, Arkkonam is 60 km. citing routes I know where suburban trains are running. Are they viable? Bangalore there is deliberate obstacles, like asking for Binni mill land, not doubling Hosur, Mysore lines, etc.

Suburban fares need to be increased

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What you prefer may be ideal but it doesn't seem to appeal to railways as they have to bear losses for 20 years or until passengers pick up. Even with overloaded trains in Mumbai, local trains are running under heavy losses. MUTP Ph-3 is moving at a snail's pace due to issues with insufficient revenue generation. Unless suburban fares are increased substantially, railways will keep hesitating to start new services. Mysore line doubling will be completed soon, no plan to double Hosur line though. BTW frequent trains are operated to Arakonam from Chennai only during peak hours, not whole day. Likewise to Mahindra city.

Chengalpettu train timings,

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Chengalpettu train timings, trains starting from Chengalpettu, .

Some tax payers want every project to show cash returns. This is not right. Indirect benefits have to be considered. If I am traveling in train I get benefit. Those who travel in cars may not benefit from trains, but they cannot force those who travel in train also to ask railways to show cash returns. Car owners also benefit actually from less vehicles on roads.

Agreed, almost all forms of

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Agreed, almost all forms of city public transport run under losses which is why it is unattractive for private parties. So also railways which can incur some losses considering the many benefits it offers like reducing pollution & road congestion. However, railway 2nd class fares have been kept too abysmally low for too long making suburban rail highly unattractive for railways. If fares are hiked up by 50-70%, losses might be acceptable, but as of now, it is doubtful if they will take up any new projects.

It is a well known fact most

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It is a well known fact most transport companies across the globe are not profit making.

The only exception seems to be MTR of Hongkong. The company has managed to achieve this by mopping non ticket revenue. The company earns 41% of its revenues from real estate and advertisements.

MTR is a single company which, is responsible for suburban, metro and regional transport systems in Hong Kong. The monopoly has meant that the corporation has remained in the black. Creation of an integrated transport corporation may mean that an insouciant GOK might start evincing an interest in Namma Railu.

Naveen, I don't know why you are averse to the idea of hourly trains to nearby towns. GOK needs to look at creating a metropolitan economic zone with Tumkur and Mysore being part of the extended economic zone. The NMZ in Tumkur is likely to take shape in a day or two. GOK and GOI need to understand that creating a huge economic zone without addressing connectivity issues is a recipe for disaster. 

I understand your concerns around introducing hourly trains to Doddabballapur, Chikkaballapur, Hosur, etc. The answer lies in probably introducing trains during the peak hours to these towns. The other alternative is to sync the timings of the trains with the shift timings of the various factories located in these towns.

The modified suburban rail  proposal seeks to run trains from BYPL to WFD. I opine, this is infeasible. The same train could be extended upto Bangarept at least during the peak hours. WFD could have regular services from BYPL. 

There are far too many impediments to building a Mumbai style suburban rail system in Bangalore. Land acquisition for building stations and track doubling/ quadrupling/ tripling the biggest challenge.



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Amithpallavoor - I'm not averse to starting any form of rail services. More, the better. I'm only highlighting what the realities are - there are few passengers during off peak hours from suburban towns, as already tested on some routes. Current peak hour demand is being met by inter-city trains. As and when demand increases, they may add more trains by shunting out some from SBC to Baiyyappanahalli where a coaching terminal is planned, but god knows when it'll get built since it hasn't moved by much other than the usual 'announcements' so far. However, there have been some good developments like track doubling towards Mysore, Chennasandra etc. So, capacity can be enhanced to some extent.

NMZ in Tumkur is something positive but do you really think it can support hourly trains all through the day by itself? Tumkur leaders seem quite happy with the present set of trains with sufficient capacity during peak hours to meet present demand, & will of course ask for more if & when demand escalates.

My view is that Bangalore's traffic congestion needs addressing on topmost priority and commuter services can play a part if new stations are added within city wherever possible. They have built a station at Hoodi and also near Vijayanagar, but more are needed like at Marathalli, Sarjapur road, Hosur road etc as the stations closest to these roads are too far to walk from (i.e. Carmelaram & Heelalige).

Trains are already synchronized at peak hours. Staggereing shift timings of factories located in nearby towns may pose obstacles as it will scatter demand through the day making rail services even less viable, even if factories agree to such forceful measures.


I think the plan to run trains between BYPL & WFD seems ok as there will certainly be huge demand all through the day. Extending to Bangarpet may not be necessary as there won't be demand. Peak hour demands are anyway being met by inter-city trains.

Agree with you that Mumbai style suburban services will never be possible in Bangalore due to terrain (growth radially outwards in all directions). Road dependent growth history of Bangalore also never included optimal use of trains.

@ NaveenMy bad I meant a

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@ Naveen

My bad I meant a year or two. Refer to my statement on NMZ.

Coming back to Commuter Rail, a viable solution would be to run to trains from GBN to Mysore, and Whitefield on a regular basis. Tumkur needs a few more trains both during peak and non peak hours. This could be phase one of suburban rail. 

 It might be a good idea to move low end manufacturing like garments to nearby towns. Of course, the government can't force this.

Women from Arvind's unit in Kengeri get onto trucks and tractors to reach their homes in Bidadi and other nearby towns. I am sure, DULT is aware of these issues. 

Garmen workers spend close to 50% of their income on transport, housing and food. What have they gained by living in hovels in far flung suburbs/  dingy favelas within the city? The companies might as well move low end manufacturing to towns around Bangalore. 

Chennai has created a hub like Sriperambudur, Mumbai used Charles Correa's expertise and built Navi Mumbai. How diffiult it is for GOK to build planned satellite towns or at least upgrade social infrastruture in a Tumkur/ Nelamangala

Suburban rail shall automatically happen if GOK focuses on other towns in Old Mysore.

Wishful, but it shall not happen.


I am worried about BMRCL's

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I am worried about BMRCL's financial health as well. A system like Metro shall always have high amount of maintenance related overheads both fixed (Fixed costs like AMC) and variable (Unforeseen expenses because of wear and tear).

EBITDA is often an overated parameter to judge operational efficiency. This is just enough for maintenance and other operational expenses.

The more worrying aspect is the interest on the leverage. Given the huge CAPEX outlays, BMRCL shall need to keep borrowing.

Given all these facts, it might just be a good idea to merge BMRCL and the SPV formed for suburban rail. The assets of Metro could be on the books of the newly formed company and this SPV could use railways' assets to run local trains with a revenue sharing agreement for both box and non box revenue.

BMRCL needs to mop up both advertising, parking and real estate revenue. This business model is not sustainable. 

DMRC was lucky to get interest free loans from the government of Delhi. BMRCL has no such luck.

Amithpallavoor - don't assume

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Amithpallavoor - don't assume that Suburban rail is the only necessary trigger everywhere for development. It might have been in Mumbai region for the suburbs due to city's NS terrain, but nowhere else. Roads actually are the triggers and do a much better job, in fact.
Sriperumbudur does not have any rail connectivity yet. Pimpri-Chinchwad near Pune also developed without any suburban rail service as did Whitefield and Gurgaon.
Suburban services to Chinchwad started only after it developed when services became viable. Likewise, rail tracks to Sriperumbudur are still on the drawing board, Gurgaon was connected by metro after it developed and whitefield has metro on the drawing board.
Further, govt can provide incentives for encouraging investors to go to a certain region but they have no influence beyond that.
Navi Mumbai actually never took off initially due to governmental efforts and the 'overflow' had happened slowly only because of very severe congestion in Mumbai. Likewise Sriperumbudur was chosen by Hyundai for its plant in 1991 after which others flocked in. Govt efforts to promote it started later.
It is also not possible for govt to move low end manufacturing out unless there is some very valid reason like pollution, like it happened in Delhi. So, its plain wishful thinking.
I agree about metro. People compare Delhi metro with Bangalore but the reality is that Delhi metro is highly subsidized by not just the Delhi govt but also central govt. It isn't possible to dole out subsidy of that order by GoK nor is it possible to obtain speedy right of ways anywhere else. BMRC has to fend for itself and rely on its own finances - railways will never want to share resources with them.

Naveen, I am not assuming

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Naveen, I am not assuming anything. I am only pointing out to GOK's marked reluctance to look at investment options outside of Bangalore.

I am aware of of the fact that Sriperumbudur is yet to connected by Train. Metro might have fueled economic growth in Gurugram or Ghantagram as I would call it. Pun intended! But can we escape the fact that it has abysmal road, drainage infrastructure coupled with perennial water and power shortages?

The woeful infrastructure at GGN's railway station and the neglect of Delhi's suburban railway station by successive state and central governments are well documented. We do not want a repeat of that here. 20,000 crores of interest free loan for Metro from the Delhi Government but not a single pie for suburban rail. This kind of selective funding is counter productive. 

Contrast this with Navi Mumbai, which is spacious, well laid out and planned. The suburban rail was a boon to the populace of Navi Mumbai. The government is also mulling the option of a metro system for Navi Mumbai now. It was an ordeal to reach localities of Navi Mumbai in the 80s, but today it is a breeze thanks to suburban rail. It has prettty good bus services unlike Gurgaon. The rapid metro rail has alleviated intra city commuting woes but transport within GGN is a joke. This also has added to the traffic on GGN's roads.

Agree about internal mobility

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Agree about internal mobility in Gurgaon, it really sucks. I think GoK has been trying to get investments elsewhere in the state (i.e. outside Bangalore). After all, they established software SEZs in Shimoga & Mangalore, IIT at Dharwad, SEZ for petrochemicals at Mangalore, industrial areas in Mysore & other parts, offering incentives etc. Delhi is getting regional rail. So, its not like as if they have no plans at all.

The maglev based regional

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 A late uncle of mine worked on super conductivity and trains at IIT Powai before dying a tragic death. I am not sure if his research would ever become a reality. :)

The maglev based regional rail will take decades to become a reality.Till then, let us enjoy the tug of war between Delhi, UP and Haryana governments.

Well, there is nothing which stops the government of Delhi from speaking to railways and making sure that the existing suburban rail system does not die.

They can spare a few rupees from their kitty. It would help if there were a few more trains from Delhi to GGN and if GGN station was better connected.

The parliamentary standing

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The parliamentary standing committee ignored Lucknow and Delhi suburban railway from its scope of study. I still have the report, which spoke about financial viability and the all important issue of women safety on India's local trains. 

GOK's efforts have meant next to nothing in terms of decentralized economic growth. Siddaramaih has shown very little interest in ensuring that his hometown is on the aviation map.

The 81% occupancy of the flybuses running from KIAL to Mysore is an indication that there is a demand for flights to be run from Delhi/ Mumbai. 80% of the people on these buses are domestic passengers. Who would want to sit on the flybus and traverse through Bangalore's horrendous traffic when you can fly to Mysore directly?
I obtained these numbers from a source at KIAL. These need to be vetted.


Present Govt at Center and also GOK will not allow

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With Present Govt at Center and Exisiting state Govt of GOK will not allow suburban rail to start in next 2 years. 

Only eye wash


The argument that commuter

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The argument that commuter rail is not viable is not new, it is there 30 years ago; it might be there even 50 years ago. Even then, commuter rail has expanded all over India. Even Trivandrum got it in the last 2 years. Central govt and Railway has not openly said it is against commuter railway. If they had said that, we can ask why commuter rail is running in other places. It has made a condition of contribution from state govt, so it can always say state govt is not making contribution.  Bangalore is not getting it becaue of disinterest of Karnataka govt and people of Bangalore who in my opinion is elitist. Cars may have contributed to make this city in the last few years. But economy is cyclic, and cars will not be a solution for ever.

I am not sure if  the Saffron

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I am not sure if  the Saffron party thinks of suburban rail/ improved rail connectivity to towns around Bangalore as a project, which could help them gain a foothold over an area which has been largely been a Congress/ JD (S) bastion.

Off topic again, are the management and students of SIT (Siddaganga Institute of Technology) aware of attempts being made by Praja to get Bangalore - a suburban rail network?

Its more then 10 Yrs Campaign started for Started

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WIth interested citizens in Praja, we could able to kick start the campaign in 2010. Thanks to Sathya, Naveen, Syed and many more people including Prof T G Sitharam Presently Director IIT Guhathi,  we sarted with Call to Report, Round Tabvle Discussions, meetings with IDD, UDD, DULT, GoI, SWR, Elected reps & field survey & feedbacks collection. Thanks to excellent support by media people. Its long stroy how finally GoI has given all clearances