Bengaluru commuter rail service: Namma Railu

Aditi Hastak, Bangalore Community Manager
Bangalore, 15 April 2016

The Silicon Valley of India, Bengaluru, is a land of opportunities for everyone. The city is home to many industries, including information technology parks, and evidence suggests that the labor workforce will live close to the workplace in neighboring towns-suburbs. Some reports also suggest that Bengaluru is already saturated. With the growing commercial market, the housing is no longer affordable to many. Given the significant commute between the commercial centers and the suburbs and suburban towns viewed as the best options for setting up industries to release growth pressures on the city to absorb new migrants and to relocate some people from the city there is an impetus to use and develop the commuter railways transit system.

The number of vehicles in the city has grown, by 17 times in the last decade. Several measures were taken in Bengaluru like road widening, increasing frequency of public transport, construction of metro rail network to ease the burden. But, each of these options is laden with problems of cost, time taken for construction, nuisance to public during implementation, and shorter reach in terms of travel distance covered.

The commuter rail service (CRS), aka Namma Railu, therefore is a best possible solution connecting suburban growth centers within an approximate one-hour travel distance to Bengaluru. Praja-RAAG (Research, Analysis and Advocacy Group) initiated a ‘call for action’ for CRS in 2010 and was followed by the technical report from Rail India Technical and Economics Services (RITES) in 2012. Since then, the movement for action over CRS in on-going. With the recent 2016 Karnataka State budget announcing a Rs.100 crore investment for CRS is thus a big boost.

The proposal is to connect seven suburban towns (Mandya, Ramanagaram, Tumkur, Dodballapur, Chikballapur, Malur, Bangarpet and Hosur) with the cities which are approximately 30-80 km apartand catering to 16 Lakh people (who are not currently served by any means). The implementation of CRS would need improvements in terminals, sectional enhancements, automatic signaling, electrification, doubling and quadrupling, station enhancements, and electrical multiple units (EMU) trains/rakes.

However, when compared to other modes of transport being thought of and some already under implementation, CRS scores well over them. CRS covers total network length of 440 km as compared to 115 km for metro, 60 km for monorail or 35 km for high speed railway line. CRS when compared in terms of cost involved is much lesser i.e. 3 million USD per km in the case of suburban rail, compared to 60 million USD per km for metro rail, 20 million USD per km for monorail and 28 million USD per km for high speed trains.

And lastly, CRS is going to benefit the neighboring towns by increasing the economic activity, by providing affordable transport service and also lesser commute time to work. While doing so, team from Praja-RAAG is also aware that land is a big challenge as some new land may need to be acquired. However, as railway tracks already exist connecting these routes, the extra work needed – doubling the lines, electrification where needed and additional platforms – is minimal and would take less time to implement.

Photo credit: Praja-RAAG

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