Thiruvananthapuram: The State cabinet has given its approval to commence the preliminary works for acquiring land for SilverLine, the Thiruvananthapuram-Kasaragod semi high-speed railway line project.
The cabinet also gave administrative sanction to borrow Rs 2,100 crore from the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) as the State’s share.
An in-principle understanding has been reached for borrowing another Rs 3,000 crore from the Housing and Urban Development Corporation (Hudco). The decision needs the government’s approval.
The State has been planning to raise Rs 33,000 crore from the Japan International Cooperation Agency, Asian Development Bank, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and German Development Bank (KfW).
The Central Finance Ministry, NITI Aayog and Railway Board had already approved the State’s move to seek foreign loans for the estimated Rs 63,941 crore project.
To avail loans, however, 80 per cent of the land acquisition should be completed. As much as 1,383 hectares are required for the ambitious project.
Though the matter had come up before the government for administrative sanction in February 2021, it was decided to hold it back till the new government assumed charge.
Once completed, semi high-speed trains with an operational speed of 200kmph are likely to cover the 529.45-km stretch between Kochuveli in Thiruvananthapuram and Kasaragod in four hours.
Acquisition units to be formed
With the State cabinet approving the commencement of preliminary works to acquire land for the SilverLine project, the department of revenue will have to form 11 land acquisition units in as many districts.
A social impact study has to be carried out before acquiring land, besides finding solution to grievances of the public. Experts committees should be formed in all 11 districts to study the reports, and after the panels’ review, the reports have to be forwarded to the government for its approval.
The land valuation process to fix the price will begin only after receiving the government’s nod. The government expects to complete the process within a year.
Most districts have been witnessing widespread protests against acquiring land for the rail corridor project. Cases in this regard are also pending before the High Court.
The court has instructed the State to commence land acquisition only after getting the Central government nod. The Opposition was denied permission for an adjournment motion against the project during the previous Assembly session.
The Opposition had demanded the government to convene an all-party meeting to allay fears over the acquisition.
South to north in 4 hours
The SilverLine project envisages to bring down the travel time between Thiruvananthapuram and Kasaragod to four hours.
The 529-km rail corridor will have 10 railway stations, some of them underground. Either over bridge or underpass will be constructed every 500 metres to cross the semi high-speed line.
The government estimates that 68,000 passengers will initially utilize the facility daily if the project is completed in five years.
Ro-Ro services will be introduced to facilitate cargo movement. It is estimated that the facility will reduce the number of trucks on the roads by at least 500 on roads.
• Rs 64,000 crore: The estimated total cost of the project
• Rs 13,000 crore: Amount required for land acquisition. (Rs 6,100 crore for land, Rs 4,460 crore as compensation for buildings, Rs 1,739 crore for rehabilitation)
• 1,383 hectares: Land to be acquired in 11 districts. Of this, 1,998 hectares are private property, and 185 hectares belong to the government
• 9,314: Number of buildings that have to be demolished.