The proposed alternative railway line linking Chamarajanagar to Kollegal, Malavalli and Hejjala on the outskirts of Bengaluru has remained a non-starter though the project received final approval. The sanctioned line was originally part of the Bengaluru-Chamarajanagar railway line that was to be linked to Satyamangalam in Tamil Nadu.
The route length was pegged at 260 km but no permission was received for carrying out the survey in the Satyamangalam forests. In view of the environmental constraints and the fact that the entire landscape is one of India’s best elephant habitats that supports a high density of wildlife, a portion of the original project from Chamarajanagar to Mettupalayam was scrapped.
The curtailed project was promoted as an alternative route from Bengaluru to Chamarajanagar. This was reckoned to be not only shorter but the track alignment sought to bring vast swathes of the hinterland of Bengaluru Rural, Mandya and Chamarajanagar on the railway map of the country and give an impetus to the economy of the region.
The 142 km railway line project has not enthused the Railway Board. The last estimated cost of the project (in February 2018) was pegged at ₹1,382.78 crore. The project was to be taken up on a cost-sharing basis (50:50) between the State government and the Railways. In addition to meeting 50% of the cost, the State was also supposed to acquire the land and transfer it to the Railways.
Stakeholders including elected representatives of the region maintain that the project has the potential to boost tourism and growth of Chamarajanagar by giving it a direct link to the State capital. Besides, some commercial centres like Malavalli and Kollegal are supposed to benefit with better connectivity to Bengaluru. At present, passengers from Chamarajanagar have to reach Mysuru which is a distance of 60 km from where they have to traverse to Bengaluru which is another 139 km.
A direct link would reduce this distance to 142 km. The area is also known for sericulture and local farmers stand to benefit from the project as it will open up the market and bring them in contact with manufacturers in Bengaluru as well.
The onus was entirely on the State government which is supposed to procure land and transfer it to the Railways free of cost. Given the delay in land acquisition, the physical progress of the project was negligible. While the last estimate was pegged at ₹1,382.78 crore, the inordinate delay was bound to result in cost-escalation give the pace at which the railway lines are laid and thus make the project economically unviable.
Image Courtesy – The Hindu