Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala is on course to build an ambitious railway project despite misgivings about its financial viability and environmental impact. V Ajith Kumar, the Managing Director of the Kerala Rail Development Corporation (K-Rail), which is the implementing agency for the proposed Thiruvananthapuram-Kasaragod semi high-speed rail corridor or the SilverLine Project, claimed it will be completed in five years.
Ajith Kumar has responded to the allegations raised against the project. He explained that the total cost was estimated to be Rs 63,941 crore, including the taxes and interest rates till 2025.
"If land acquisition is completed in two years, then the work will be completed in 5 years. But if that gets delayed, the cost will escalate. The final approval from the Railway Board for the Detailed Project Report (DPR) is awaited. The Railway Ministry has given the nod to commence the process for availing loans. The NITI Aayog, which checked the DPR, has recommended to the finance department to proceed with the overseas loans. The DPR has not been released because it is a commercial document," he said.
"The alignment was decided during a meeting attended by the Chief Minister and the Railway Board Chairman on October 27, 2017. If the semi-high speed rail is constructed, there will be no need for new railway lines in Kerala in the future. In areas where there are wetlands and paddy fields, the rail line will be constructed on pillars. Techniques to strengthen soil will be used in other areas. The embankment for the SilverLine is similar to the current embankments for railway line. No floods have been caused in Kerala due to the railway embankments in the past 100 years. Walls that divide Kerala will not be built. Only protective fencing, as per the railway rules, will be erected. There will be facilities to cross the path at every 500 meters. Around 90 per cent of the high-speed rail lines across the globe have been constructed at the ground level," he added.
"In the current broad gauge system in India, it is not possible to operate trains at a speed of over 160 kmph. That is why Mumbai-Ahmedabad and Delhi-Meerut high-speed rail lines are being built on standard gauge. The Railway Ministry has given the permission for that. The RO-RO facility will use the line during off-peak hours and after the maintenance work on the tracks," Ajith Kumar said.
For preparing the DPR, the LiDAR survey that can collect data up to an accuracy of 10 cm was used. A one-month-long traffic survey was also conducted. Around 80,000 daily passengers are expected in 2025. Prior to the DPR, the preliminary environment impact assessment was conducted. A geo-technical study was also conducted to assess the topography and soil texture. For constructing double-track, it would cost between Rs 50 to 60 crore per kilometre. The same cost for SilverLine is Rs 120 crore. To build high-speed rail with a speed of 350 kmph, it would cost around Rs 256 crore per km, Ajith Kumar explained.