Who the hell wants a Mysore-B’lore bullet train?

YOGESH DEVARAJ writes: Recently, there have been news reports about plans to introduce a “bullet train” between Mysore and Bangalore.

My question to the honourable industries minister and the State government is: why? Do we really need a bullet train between the State’s premier cities, or for that matter in any part of Karnataka?

As a Mysorean and a train passenger between Mysore and Bangalore for more than 25 years, as one who is aware of this rail segment’s history, understand its needs and track the progress of the infrastructure, my belief is we definitely don’t need the bullet train.

Passengers and commuters have watched with dismay their demands being put on the backburner by the railway ministry and State government for years. To see the talk of a “bullet train” is at once revealing and disappointing.

The conversion of the track (which was laid in 1882) from metre gauge to broad gauge took 14 years to complete but even when that was done, all the State got was a single line. Gauge conversion was budgeted in 1978 and completed in 1992.

C.K. Jaffer Sharief as railway minister takes credit for the gauge conversion but never owned up the failure to get the second lane. It made economical and common sense to lay a double track at the time of conversion than adding a second lane at a later stage.

In the last 20 years, several governments (both at Centre and State) have come and gone but very little progress has taken place in this segment. The doubling of the 140 km line is progressing at a snail’s pace with only 65 km complete (55 km between Bangalore and Channapatna, and 10 km between Mysore and Naganahalli).

There is plenty more to be done: Only a third of the land required for the project has been acquired. The single line bridge in Srirangapatna over the Cauvery river needs to be demolished and replaced with two new bridges. Tipu Sultan‘s armoury needs to shifted. Etcetera.

On top of all this, there are several demands crying for intervention. Like electrifying the track; like setting up additional ticket counters (right now buying tickets in both stations is a nightmare); like establishing a railway medical college (was proposed in 2009 Rail Budget but so far no progress, not even foundation stone laid).

Instead of addressing all these important and urgent issues, which impact thousands of passengers and commuters every day, the State government is talking of a “bullet train”, which will only serve a limited few because of the high cost involved.

The State government should push the railway ministry (we have one of our own K.H. Muniyappa as minister of state) to get the pending works completed instead of embarking on something which we don’t need and can’t afford. At least not at this stage.