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Hassan-Shravanabelagola broad-gauge to be ready by May

By Our Staff Correspondent

HASSAN, FEB. 24. The South Western Railway (SWR) expects release of adequate funds for the completion of on-going works in its jurisdiction, especially the gauge conversion between Bangalore and Mangalore which has been languishing for the past 14 years.

The Hassan-Mangalore broad-gauge line will be operational by June and the broad-gauge line between Hassan and Shravanabelagola by May 2005, according to the Chief Administrative Officer (Constructions), SWR, Manoj Kumar.

Proposal

Mr. Kumar said a proposal has been sent to the Railway Ministry for a rail link between Kolar and Chickballapur and SWR is hopeful of getting the project sanctioned.

The proposed broad-gauge line between Hassan and Bangalore was conceived as an alternative to the metre-gauge line between Bangalore and Mangalore via Arsikere.

The proposed line up to Shravanabelagola was sanctioned when H.D. Deve Gowda was the Prime Minister.

Work on the line progressed without hitch and funds were released on time.

The Railways released Rs. 8 crores in two instalments for land acquisition and 446.19 acres was acquired in 14 villages.

A sum of Rs. 9.25 crores was paid to the landowners. Later, the Railways requested the Revenue Department to suspend land acquisition because of funds crunch.

With the allocation of funds in the last Railway budget the work has resumed. According to sources in Deputy Chief Engineer's office (gauge conversion), enough funds has been sanctioned for completing the project. Some works are in the final stages.

Confirming this, Mr. Kumar said that the work on Hassan-Shravanabelagola line is fast progressing and the line will be operational by May 2005.

A Hassan-Mangalore Rail Development Company (HMRDC) is being set up by the Railway Ministry, Karnataka Rail Infrastructure Development Company Ltd. (K-RIDE) and other investors to implement the Hassan-Mangalore gauge conversion project.

According to Mr. Kumar, the Railways has released its full quota of Rs. 45 crores for the gauge conversion and the HMRDC is arranging to deposit its share through K-RIDE and market borrowings.

Subrahmanya-Sakleshpur line

Work on the 55-km line between Subrahmanya and Sakleshpur is progressing fast and there is no funds crunch for the completion of the gauge conversion, he said.

However, sources said that work between Shravanabelagola and B.G. Nagar is moving at a snail's pace as there is an "inordinate" delay in acquiring land.

Though the Railways deposited Rs. 9 crores for paying compensation to the landowners, the Revenue Department is not expediting the land acquisition.

It is difficult to complete the work unless the Revenue Department hands over the land to the Railways, the sources said. However, a senior Revenue official attributed the shortage of staff for the delay.

The situation is more or less the same with regard to the stretch between Bangalore and Nelamangala.

The land acquisition process is hindering the progress of the work.

Mr. Kumar said the SWR has sought at least Rs. 30 crores for taking up work on the Nelamangala-Shravanabelagola line and there is hope that "sufficient" funds will be released for the same.

Mr. Deve Gowda, who represents Hassan in the Lok Sabha, has taken keen interest in the completion of the Bangalore-Mangalore rail line to link Mangalore and Chennai ports for the economic development of the region.

He is also keen on a rail link to Shravanabelagola in view of the Mahamastakabhisheka which will be held on February 8, 2006.

The Minister for Public Works and Energy, H.D. Revanna, had met the Railway Minister, Lalu Prasad, in this regard. Charukeerthi Bhattaraka Swamiji of Shravanabelagola has appealed to the Union Government for the early completion of the rail line to Shravanabelagola.

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