Joint venture overlooked in budget
Hope floated for the next phase of metro rail construction, but for patrons of MMTS, hopes of the second phase reaching fruition at least this year are dashed. The government has not provided a single penny to the joint venture suburban rail project in this year’s budget despite appeals by commuters and Union Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy, who is also the Secunderabad MP.
“It is very unfortunate with political differences being the main reason. I have been seeing this for so many years. The work, too, has slowed down with the government not releasing more than ₹500 crore payments due to South Central Railway (SCR). People living in the suburbs are suffering,” bemoans Noor Ahmed Ali, secretary of the Suburban Train Travellers’ Association.
He and several others have been knocking on the doors of the railways and government departments seeking early completion of the project, scheduled to have been commissioned in 2018. Phase two project for about 85 km and more was conceived at an initial cost of about ₹641 crore more than a decade ago with the then government signing a pact to fund two-thirds of the cost, following the successful launch of MMTS Phase 1. The first phase was taken up on 50% cost-sharing basis. The services have not resumed since the pandemic-induced lockdown last year.
The cost ballooned to ₹817 crore over time as initially, the railways sat on the proposal because suburban train systems were considered to be ‘loss making’ and the lines were not said to be “not sufficient to accommodate running more local trains”. By the time realisation dawned that railways need the infrastructure network — suburban services or not, the priorities got changed along with the governments here.
“We are constantly in touch with the government seeking release of funds as the project in the final stage. We have spent more already to commission the lines expeditiously. We will make use of upcoming infrastructure to run existing freight and passenger trains more efficiently once prevailing construction ‘gaps’ are bridged,” said senior railway officials, seeking anonymity.
In other words, the local rail network linking the suburbs will not happen even if the railways finishes the remaining works. SCR is already putting to use the first phase of MMTS Phase-II 5.75-km Ramachandrapuram to Tellapur route to use for the past two years.
‘Construction gaps’ are between Sanathnagar-Moula Ali 19 km, Falaknuma-Umdanagar 13 km, Kacheguda-Sitaphalmandi-Moula Ali 10 km, Moula Ali-Ghatkesar 12.2 km and Secunderabad-Malkajgiri-Medchal 25 km electrification, doubling, signalling, stations construction, level crossings etc., are on.
“Once completed, we can be in a position to run more trains towards Mumbai and Bengaluru besides bypassing the freight trains away from Secunderabad station,” explained senior officials.
MMTS patrons, like Mr. Noor, request the railways to focus on the tracks, electrification and level crossings rather than buildings on suburban routes.
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