Sidewalls of SilverLine rail corridor to divide Kerala — a UDF rationale to oppose project

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Thiruvananthapuram: The main opposition front in Kerala has decided to oppose the ambitious semi high-speed rail project being promoted by the state government and instead propose an alternative project. 

At its leadership meeting, held in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday, the Congress-led United Democratic Front decided to oppose the Thiruvananthapuram– Kasaragod Semi High-Speed Rail (SilverLine) Project of the Left Democratic Front Government. Based on the study report prepared by the UDF sub-committee on the issue, the meeting analysed that the project was unscientific and impractical.

The political front gave an ominous warning that the rail corridor, envisaged with sidewalls, would lead to floods by damming waters. 

Another UDF would rationale to oppose the project is the panel's realisation that it was meant to divide Kerala on geographical lines!

Moreover, there was no socio-environmental impact study undertaken till now, stated Congress and Opposition leader V D Satheesan and UDF convenor M M Hassan at the meeting.

Without even finalising the alignment of the project, the government is in a haste to acquire land. It will divide Kerala into two parts by building walls on both sides of the rail. A huge cost, which is beyond the capacity of the State Government, has to be incurred for the project, Satheesan said.  

VD Satheesan

Findings of UDF panel

The UDF sub-committee led by IUML legislator M K Muneer had noted that the project would result in the displacement of 20,000 families. Around 1,452 hectares of land have to be acquired.

As many as 50,000 commercial establishments have to be razed to the ground. About 145 hectares of paddy field have to be reclaimed and more than 100 flyovers have to be built for the purpose. 

The project

The 529.45-km SilverLine corridor, which will connect Kasaragod and Thiruvananthapuram at a speed of 200 kmph, had received in-principle approval from the Central government in December 2019.

The project is aimed at addressing the transportation needs and reducing the total travel time between the northern and southern extremities of the State to less than 4 hours as against the current 10 to 12 hours. 

The intermediate stations include Kollam, Chengannur, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Kochi, Thrissur, Tirur, Kozhikode and Kannur.

The railway line will also be integrated with airports at Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi and will connect the IT corridors of Technopark and Infopark. 

The Kerala Rail Development Corporation (K-Rail), a joint venture between the Kerala government and the Union Railways ministry, is behind the project.

Current status

Last month the Kerala Government accorded permission to start preliminary work for acquiring 955.13 hectares of land spanning over 11 districts in the state.

The government has notified the survey numbers of the land to be taken over for the purpose. The final approval for the land acquisition will be given only after getting the Railway Board report, social impact assessment study report, and the recommendations of the expert committee and the District Collectors.

The state council of ministers has also given administrative sanction to borrow Rs 2,100 crore from the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) to provide the Kerala government's share.        

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