The semi-high-speed rail project connecting Kasaragod and Thiruvananthapuram, a dream project that eases the transport between north and south ends of the state, has got a nod from the state government. A high-level meeting chaired by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan last week had approved the draft alignment of the project.
The 532 km-long project, which is executed by Kerala Railway Development Corporation Limited (KRDCL), envisages four-and-a-half-hour travel time between the two points. KRDCL, a joint venture company under the state government and Railway Ministry for implementing the railway infrastructure in the state, estimated the approximate cost of project as Rs 46,769 crore.
With the implementation of the project, the travel time from North end of Kerala to South end would be decreased by 6-7 hours. Also, the existing railway line between Thiruvananthapuram and Kasaragod is highly saturated and due to sharp curves and older alignment, the average sectional speed of Mail/Express trains is restricted to 45 Kmph.
While, according to KRDCL, the proposed 3rd and 4th lines are planned to be in mostly straight alignment which is designed to run at a Semi-High Speed of 180 Kmph. This makes the travel between Thiruvananthapuram and Kasaragod faster at an average speed of 130 Kmph. Less than 4 hours compared with the present 10 to 12 hrs.
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“Since the capital city, Thiruvananthapuram, is located at the Southern end of the state, for us, it takes about 12 hours to reach there if we have some administrative or bureaucratic work. So, if the project is being implemented, it would ease our travel,” said a man, who lives at Manjeshwaram in Kasargod district.
As per the final draft of the project – which has been done by a Paris-based engineering and consulting group Systra – the line will start from Kochuveli in Thiruvananthapuram. A new route will have fewer curves between Kochuveli and Tirur. From Tirur to Kasaragod, the line would run parallel to the existing railway line. The new line would be passing through 11 districts of the state excluding Alappuzha, Idukki and Wayanad.
Kochuveli, Kollam, Chengannur, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Tirur, Kozhikode, Kannur and Kasaragod will be the stations in this corridor. The Kasaragod station would be near the existing railway station. As per the initial study, the new train would travel at a speed of 130 km per hour with stops at all stations, though system is envisaged to run trains at 200 km per hour.
A detailed project report is being prepared by the consultant Systra and it is expected to be submitted in October or November. The detailed report would be containing the traffic projection and financial shares of the project.
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The project which is waiting for the Cabinet approval, will be placed before the Railway Ministry for the approval. Once the in principal approval is granted, then the state government can proceed with the land acquisition.
“It is expected that getting clearance and land acquisition will take around 18 months to two years and one more year will be taken for arranging finances for the project. And once the finances are arranged, the project can be executed in three years,” said KRDCL officials.
Earlier, in the 2019-20 Kerala budget, Finance Minister Thomas Isaac had announced a 515-km elevated corridor with an estimated cost of Rs 55,000 crore. But later it was decided to construct third and fourth railway lines considering the escalating cost of construction for elevated corridor.
The idea of high-speed corridor between Thiruvananthapuram and Kasargod to ease the transportation was first announced by Isaac in the 2009-10 Kerala budget during the time of VS Achuthandan-led LDF government in the state. The then government in 2009 had set up a corporation named Kerala High Speed Rail Corporation Ltd (KHSRC) to implement the project. Following that, DMRC had conducted a feasibility study and submitted a report in 2012 to the then United Democratic Front government led by Congress. The project which had an estimated cost of Rs 1.27 lakh crore, however, failed to be implemented due to various factors and the government had dissolved the KSHRC too.
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