August 15, 2019
Kochi: The 530-km high speed rail project through Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s Kannur district gets priority over the long-pending 111-km Sabarigiri rail project.
The Kerala Rail Development Corporation Ltd (KRDCL) formed after the Left Democratic Front came to power has relegated to back burner the Sabari project which was taken up about 30 years back.
Why the left government has ignored the Sabari project despite its huge financial viability is intriguing.
The high speed rail is coming up in the sector where the Indian Railways has already been operating services for over half a century.
The new proposed train service would surely help the travellers as it would take only four hours to travel from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod against 12 hours taken now.
But the traveling cost would be very high and it remains to be seen how much patronage it would get from common travelling public.
Global consultant SYSTRA of France has submitted a feasibility report which has been cleared by the KRDCL which has a central share of 49 per cent.
At a time when the government is struggling to acquire land for widening the national highways, buying 1,226.45 hectares for the rail project would be no cakewalk.
The Ernakulam-Kayamkulam doubling work via Kottayam taken about a decade back is not complete yet due to land acquisition problem.
Most importantly, the state which is neck deep in financial crisis after the devastating flood of 2018, is planning to take up the Rs 56,443 crore project with 74 per cent investment by private parties.
If implemented, Kerala would become the first State to execute a rail project with private participation.
Thirteen new stations envisaged are Thiruvananthapuram, Kochuveli, Kollam, Chengannur, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Kakkanad, Thrissur, Thrissur, Tirur, Kozhikode, Kannur and Kasaragod.
There would be a 2.5-km tunnel, a 12-km bridge along the 531.45-km route.
The average speed of the train with nine coaches would be 150 kmph with each compartment having a capacity of 75 seats on the lines of Train 18.
Two maintenance depots are planned at Thiruvananthapuram and Kasaragod while the ticketing would be similar to that adopted by Kochi Metro Rail Ltd. Optimum solar power would be used.
The Cabinet would give final shape to it only after evaluating it extensively to avoid any opposition in land acquisition.
The track would run 80 per cent parallel to the existing route from Thiruvananthapuram to Thrissur and 90 per cent from Tirur to Kasaragod.
A top official told The Covai Post on condition of anonymity that there would be about 150 km of elevated track to avoid land acquisition. Rakes and many related things would be imported to move with state-of-the-art technology.
There could be many firsts in the project, but everything would depend on clearance from the Centre.