Thursday, November 12, 2009

High-speed rail project gets push from Reddy

High-speed rail project gets push from Reddy

Bangalore: With five consortia bidding for the Rs 3,700-crore high-speed rail link to the international airport, the on-again, off-again project has been green-lighted by tourism and infrastructure minister G Janardhana Reddy.
Five consortia — Reliance Infrastructure Ltd and CSR Nanjing Puzhen Rolling Stock Company Ltd; L&T Transco Ltd; Italian-Thai Development Public Co Ltd & ITD Cementation India Ltd; Pioneer Infratech Pvt Ltd & Siemens Project Ventures and Lanco Infratech Ltd & OHL Concesiones SL — are in the fray to build the rail link, which has been dogged by controversy. Delhi Metro Rail Corporation is the consultant for concessioning process.
The process of Request for Qualification (RFQ) was done on October 3. Said Reddy: “I am the infrastructure development minister. I have made it clear the project is on.’’ V Madhu, principal secretary for infrastructure, said the order was passed a long time ago. “One set of tenders has been completed and the minister has instructed us to go ahead with the project.”
Asked about the progress of the project, Reddy said: “The process is on with Expression of Interest (EOI) and RFQ being done. Work will begin in a month’s time.’’
Reddy’s knock-out punch has come just when everybody thought the project was headed for the deep freezer. For, only on Friday, Capt Gopinath was booted out as head of the state government’s Infrastructure Vision Group for ostensibly being an articulate supporter of the project.
The rail link is opposed by ABIDe, an infrastructure advisory body to the government. Bangalore South MP Ananth Kumar is ABIDe vice-chairman and MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar its convener.
FACT BOX Route length: 33.65 km
Total estimated cost:
Rs 5,200 crore
Completion cost:
Rs 3,716 crore by March 2012
Train composition:
6 cars
Stations at: Cubbon Road, Hebbal, Yelahanka and BIA terminal
Travel time: 25 minutes, including halts at Hebbal and Yelahanka High Speed Rail chugs now Is Bangalore Seeing A Revolution In Transport? Several Innovations Are On The Cards
Bangalore: The Rs 3700-crore high speed rail link (HSRL) has been put on the fast track by tourism and infrastructure minister G Janardhana Reddy. It, however, has a history of being buffeted by strong pro and anti lobbies.
The government’s infrastructure vision group, which was until last week headed by captain Gopinath, is all in favour of it. By cutting down the commute time to the airport from the city to less than half hour, it has the ability to be a game changer to the economic landscape of the entire Bangalore north region especially Devanahalli and Yelahanka and the airport corridor, it says. The argument being that every big city, be it Shanghai, Hong Kong, Kaula Lumpur, London have direct, fast speed links to the airport from the city centre which result in economic multipliers far outweighing the initial heavy cost of construction.
Would captain Gopi be prepared to head the body again given the changed dynamics? He isn’t so sure. “The first time I agreed without any cynicism though it really takes away a lot of your time, because the city needs good infrastructure. There are too many pulls and pressures. If they ask me again, lets see.”
On the other hand, ABIDe Task Force, the state government’s infrastructure advisory body has been leading the opposition to the project. ABIDe, which favours a Metro link to the airport, on Wednesday said, “cost is an issue that needs to be considered before deciding on HSRL. The project cost has to be kept low to ensure affordable tariffs for the common citizen,” a premise upon which they think metro to be a cheaper option.It further said, “A Metro link to the airport will generate significant savings in support service costs, operations management, ticketing etc.”
HSRL has swung like a yo-yo for the last couple of years.The cabinet had approved it a while ago. However, following the objection of Abide, an independent consultant was brought in to study its feasibility. Eight months and Rs 9 crore later, the report submitted favoured the setting up HSRL. Following a presentation — based on the report — made by Janardhana Reddy to the cabinet, the latter again approved the project a couple of months ago.
But the sudden instability that hit the BJP government threw a spanner in the works and the project looked headed for a quick burial when captain Gopinath was summarily removed as head of the vision group for publicly championing the cause of the rail link. And now, even before the ink could dry on the patch-up between the CM and the Reddy brothers, the project is back.
“I’m happy the government is going ahead with the project. I hope that the government acts with determination, that it marches in one step. I hope the selection of bidders will be done with speed and transparency. It is not important whether I am there or not. All of us can only advise the government. But it’s the government which has to decide,” captain Gopinath explained.
ABIDe was rather circumspect in its comments on Wednesday, with Chandrasekhar saying the issue is improving connectivity between Bangalore and the airport; ABIDe is evaluating ways of ensuring that.


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