Kerala Budget Explained: How feasible is the proposed semi-high-speed rail service?

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While presenting the Kerala Budget for 2020-21 on Friday, Finance Minister Thomas Isaac announced that the semi-high-speed rail project, connecting Kasargod and Thiruvananthapuram, will be completed in three years. He said the land acquisition will begin this year. “The fare from Kasargod to Thiruvananthapuram will be Rs1450,” he said.

What we know about the project?

The 540 km project envisages reduction of travel time from north to south from 12 to four hours. A joint venture of Kerala government and Ministry of Railways, the project could go a long way to address transport problems in the state.

The state cabinet had approved the project after a year-long feasibility study, conducted by the Kerala Rail Development Corporation Ltd.

Is the project feasible?

Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) principal advisor E Sreedharan, who is popularly known as Metro Man, had expressed doubts over the economic feasibility of the project.

Apart from the expenses, Sreedharan flagged the massive rehabilitation that would have to be undertaken for the project.

The criticism has not changed the Kerala government stand. It is going ahead with its efforts to mobilise investment for the project. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, during his recent visit to Japan, had reportedly held discussions with a few companies.

How much the project will cost?

The project is estimated to cost Rs 56,443 crore, but this can go up to Rs 66,079 crore by the time of its completion. During its implementation, the project would generate 50,000 jobs. It would provide employment for 11,000 on completion.

Trains on the track, which cuts through 11 districts, would run at a speed of 200 km per hour.