Change of guard in State puts a question mark on pending cost-sharing railway projects

The derailment of the BJP government in the State following the electoral debacle in the Assembly elections has put a question mark on a slew of pending railway projects, which were to be taken up on a cost-sharing basis between the Centre and the State.

And at a time when the Congress has to mop up additional revenue to meet its guarantee scheme, which has been pegged at ₹65,000 crore annually, it is unlikely that the government would be interested in funding projects of long-gestation period whose return on investments is also questionable. As on date, there are more than 20 sanctioned projects on paper or work is in various stages of progress and some of them have a 50% cost-sharing rider built into it.

In case of the Shivamoggga-Shikaripur-Ranebennur line which is one such cost-sharing project, the railways awarded engineering procurement and construction tender in February this year for the first phase of the works to lay 46-km new line at a cost of nearly ₹455 crore based on the State guarantee.

The second phase of the same project to lay another 43-km railway line at an additional cost of ₹440 crore will be taken up after the State government hands over the land. With the Congress announcing a freeze on works sanctioned during the BJP rule, the project is bound to be delayed.

The Shivamogga-Harihar line is another project on paper expected to cost ₹832.47 crore with the State having to bear 50% of the cost besides providing land for free. The project is yet to make any physical progress for lack of land though it was sanctioned in 2011-12.

 So is the case with Whitefield-Kolar 52.9-km new line to be taken up on a cost-sharing basis. The anticipated cost is ₹349 crore with other stipulations of meeting 50% cost and providing free land and the physical progress of the project approved in 2011-12, is nil.

Some of the projects – though approved – are on paper only and have not moved an inch as land has not been transferred to the railways. Given the present exigencies, the new government in the State cannot be expected to accord any importance to projects unless they were critical for freight transport, revenue generation and mass transportation when resource mobilisation for other schemes are of paramount importance, according to sources.

An example of such a project is the Hejjala-Chamarajanagar railway line entailing a new line of 142 km. It was touted to be an alternative line connecting Bengaluru with Chamarajanagar besides connecting Malavalli and Kollegal and bringing vast swathe of Bengaluru rural and Mandya under the railway network. Though sanctioned in 1997-98, the physical progress after more than 25 years after approval, is nil. It is unlikely that the present State government will revive it at all as the present cost has been pegged at ₹1,383 crore.

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