The Bengaluru Suburban Railway Project (BSRP), commonly referred to as “India’s most integrated rail project”, is the second metro project for the city of Bengaluru. The project is being implemented by the Karnataka Rail Infrastructure Development Corporation (K-RIDE), a joint venture between the Karnataka state government and the Ministry of Railways, with the former holding 51 per cent of the equity and the railway ministry holding the remaining 49 per cent.
The project will entail a 148 km long rail network, with the project having an elevated structure of 55.5 km and the balance of the structure is at grade 92.5 km. A total of 57 stations have been proposed across these four corridors – KSR Bengaluru-Devanahalli (41 km), Baiyappanahalli-Chikkabanavara (25.14 km), Kengeri-Whitefield (35.52 km) and Heelalige-Rajankunte (46.24 km). Of the proposed metro stations, 34 will be constructed at grade structure, while the remaining 23 will be constructed as elevated metro stations. The project proposes to eliminate 23 level crossings in the Bengaluru metropolitan region by constructing road overbridges. A total of 583 acres of land is required for the successful execution of the project, of which only 103 acres of land, amounting to 17 per cent of the total required land, remains to be acquired. The Ministry of Railways provided the railway land free of charge, demonstrating a notable example of cooperative federalism. The Karnataka government and the railway ministry will provide their land at a nominal lease charge of Re 1 per acre. The cost of private land will be entirely borne by the Karnataka state government. A part of the equity is proposed to come from the land monetisation of Indian Railways (IR)’ land, which is being undertaken by IR itself, through the Rail Land Development Authority. The first corridor is scheduled to open in 2024 and the entire project, which includes four corridors, is projected to be completed in 2026.
The suburban rail is identical to a dedicated metro project, with the exception that it is being built on a railway line, which would necessitate the laying of two dedicated railway lines parallel to the existing railway lines. Since the project runs along the existing railway track, developers have to construct pier structures parallel and adjacent to existing operational electrified railway lines, which is proving to be a significant challenge. The broad gauge system is another essential component that distinguishes the suburban railway project from traditional metro systems. The metro size of the BSRP is 3.2 metres, which is wider than the standard metro size of 2.9 metres. However, the operational speed and axle load are the same in the case of both projects.
The gross total cost of the project is Rs 185.53 billion, of which the state and the central government will each provide for 20 per cent of the total expenditure and the remaining 60 per cent, amounting to Rs 74.38 billion, would be raised through external financing. The additional element worth Rs 27.86 billion would come from the procurement, and operations and maintenance of rolling stock on the public-private partnership (PPP) model. The Karnataka government has already released Rs 4 billion towards the project. The prospective loan funding partners for the project include KfW Bank (a German bank), which is expected to provide Euro 500 million and AfD Bank (a French bank), which is expected to provide Euro 300 million. Negotiations with these banks are currently in the financing stage. The implementing agency hopes to achieve financial closure over the next six months. The Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, has provided the required approvals for obtaining loans from international banks.
Highlights of station planning
Station planning forms an essential part of the overall implementation of the project. The project connects suburban rail to IR at 23 stations, suburban rail to suburban rail at five stations and suburban rail to the Bengaluru metro at 11 stations. In view of the future needs, the implementing agency is considering platforms with a total length of 205 metres and a handling capacity of nine coaches, as compared to typical platforms with a handling capacity of six coaches. The station airspace is being developed by K-RIDE by initiating real estate development activities. The agency is considering a multimodal public transit system with ample space for parking facilities with an aim to achieve last-mile connectivity in the area. Developers are planning to implement automatic fare collection systems, similar to those deployed at various metro stations. They are considering a multimodal integration system in which a common mobility card would be issued, allowing individuals to pay once and commute through several other modes of transportation. The final project would have a street-like ambience at the ground level, and commuters would utilise elevators to reach the first floor, buy tickets and proceed to subsequent floors, in order to board metro trains.
The Karnataka government and IR have formed various coordination committees for faster execution of the BSRP, where most of the relevant issues are discussed on a weekly basis. A high-powered committee chaired by Chief Secretary and the general manager of the IR has been formed, which has greatly accelerated the pace of decision-making. Additionally, a technical committee has been set up with the Bensgaluru Metro Rail Corporation. A number of committees for multi-modal planning have also been constituted. The implementing agency of the project is also a member of the urban mobility transport authority.
The geotechnical survey for the suburban project is 60 per cent completed. The second corridor has been planned and the alignment approval has already been granted by South Western Railways. The concept plans for basic K-RIDE stations are also finished and the marking of station footprint at the site is currently in progress. Of the 23 road overbridges, 10 have been planned and designed and are expected to be tendered shortly. The elevated structures of the project are currently being planned and designed. The schedule of dimensions has been approved and the design brief report has been submitted to the Research Designs and Standards Organisation for approval. The physical construction work is scheduled to begin in October-November of this year. Land acquisition is largely completed; land for Depot One has been located and acquisition is in progress, while land for Depot Two (with 30.6 acres of defence land) has been identified and proposals will be sent soon. The standard bid document has been prepared in accordance with the Karnataka Transparency in Public Procurement guidelines and tenders for the construction of at-grade and elevated structures will be invited soon.
In terms of business opportunities, civil construction tenders for all four corridors will be invited shortly. These civil tenders are estimated to be worth approximately Rs 100 billion. Signalling tenders on a communications-based train control basis would be invited in the next six months. Electrification tenders will also be floated in the following six to seven months. Procurement and operations and maintenance of rolling stock would be carried out on a PPP basis, which would open up new opportunities for private investors to invest and operate metro coaches. Going forward, the BSRP is projected to offer numerous business opportunities for diverse industry stakeholders.