TVPM-Kasaragod in 4 hours! Isaac brings in fast rail corridor in budget

TVPM-Kasaragod in 4 hours! Isaac brings in fast rail corridor in budget
Representational image. Photo: iStock

Thiruvananthapuram: The work on the proposed semi-high speed rail corridor between Kasaragod and Thiruvananthapuram, one of the mega projects the state plans to implement, will commence next year, Finance Minister Thomas Isaac announced in the 2019-20 Kerala budget presented on Thursday.

The 515-km elevated corridor is estimated to cost Rs 55,000 crore on completion. The main advantage of the elevated rail line is that it hardly requires large-scale land acquisition.

Semi-high speed trains, which can operate at 180 km per hour, would reduce the travel time between the state capital to Kasaragod to four hours.

The project will be executed by the Kerala Railway Development Corporation Ltd (KRDCL), the joint venture company under the state government and the Ministry of Railways for augmenting the railway infrastructure within the State. The financial resources for the project, expected to be completed in seven years, would be mobilised through foreign loans and from within the country.

The semi-high speed project was proposed after the state government shelved its ambitious high-speed rail corridor connecting Thiruvananthapuram and Kasaragod.

The Paris-based engineering and consulting group Systra has been appointed general consultant for carrying out the feasibility study. The proposal has received in-principal approval from the railway board. The railways will bear half the cost of the project.

After cabinet clearing, the feasibility report will be submitted to the Central government. The master plan and the detailed project report will be prepared by June 2019, it was learnt.

The original plan was to construct the new rail track parallel to the existing track, but the idea was dropped after the railways expressed disinterest in the project. There are indications that the alignment worked out by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) for the proposed high-speed rail corridor could be used for the new semi-high speed project.

High-speed and semi-high speed corridors

A high-speed corridor between Thiruvananthapuram and Kasaragod was announced by Thomas Isaac in the state budget for the 2009-10 fiscal. To implement the project, the government had formed a corporation, the Kerala High Speed Rail Corporation Ltd. (KHSRC) in 2009. The DMRC conducted a feasibility study and submitted the report to the government in 2012. The estimated cost was Rs 1.27 lakh crore. 

The 430-km project was envisaged to operate trains running at a speed of 300 kmph.  However, due to protests from various quarters the DMRC could not complete the alignment survey in order to prepare a detailed project report. Following which, the government decided to dissolve KHSRC.

Challenges ahead

A major obstacle for the government to set up the semi-high speed corridor will be land acquisition. The project, involves acquisition of at least 1,000 hectares of land. Also, the state administration has a tough task at hand in mobilising funds to make it a reality. 

According to sources privy to the project, the government has plans to avail loans from international funding agencies including the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Read more: Kerala Budget news