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Kerala: Resentment Over Shelving of Nemom Coaching Terminal; Ministerial Delegation to Press for Project

After three years of zero progress since the foundation stone of the project was laid, the Railways Ministry has confirmed that the Nemom Coaching Terminal project has been shelved.
Kerala: Resentment Over Shelving of Nemom Coaching Terminal; Ministerial Delegation to Press for Project

Thiruvananthapuram: The Union Railway Ministry’s decision to drop the Nemom Coaching Terminal project in Thiruvananthapuram has invited strong opposition from the capital city of Kerala. The resentment against the move is strong among the passengers, railway employees, and the natives of the city.

After three years of zero progress since the foundation stone was laid, the Ministry of Railways has confirmed in an official statement that the Nemom Coaching Terminal project has been shelved. The decision came as a major blow to the rail-infrastructure aspirations of Thiruvananthapuram. The project was designed to overcome congestion at the Thiruvananthapuram Central Railway Station by providing extra coaching terminals at Nemom, the adjacent station.

The Ministry of Railways made its decision clear in a written response to a question raised by John Brittas, Member of Rajya Sabha, informing that the work has not proceeded as the project was not found justified. However, Brittas has written a letter to the Minister of Railways, Ashwini Vaishnaw, requesting him to reconsider the decision.

“Ministry of Railways decided to abandon the project of Nemom Coaching Terminal on February 16. It came merely 12 days after giving a written reply to me that the project was under consideration," Brittas wrote in his letter to the minister. “The decision is a crushing blow to the aspirations for the development of railway infrastructure and rail traffic in the state," the letter said. It was after much delay and prolonged queries from the MP that the Ministry of Railways shared its decision. 

In a joint press briefing, Kerala Ministers V Sivankutty, G R Anil and Antony Raju, all of the legislators from Thiruvananthapuram district, said there should be strong protests as the Centre has been turning a blind eye to the demands of Kerala for quite some time.

“We will meet the Union Minister along with MPs from the State requesting to review the decision to abandon the project. A public convention will be organised to plan protest programmes and mount pressure on the Union government," said V Sivankutty at the press briefing.

Decade-old Proposal for Coaching Terminal

The project was first declared a decade back in the rail budget of 2011-12. After a delay of several years, the project was included in the Railway Umbrella Work in 2018-19. Piyush Goyal, the Union Railways Minister during the period, laid the foundation stone for the project on March 7, 2019.

Speaking at the occasion through video conferencing, Piyush Goyal had stressed the significance of the project, saying it would decongest the existing coaching terminals that are already overloaded. He also said the lack of adequate coaching facilities is a major barrier to providing new trains to Thiruvananthapuram, adding that the new project would solve the problem.  

“It (Nemom Coaching Terminal) will decongest the existing already overloaded coaching terminals and will help us take more and more mail and express trains all the way up to Thiruvananthapuram. With this added connectivity after this yard expansion, I think the quality and speed of maintenance will also become much faster," Goyal had said.

The minister had also elaborated on the plan for the coaching terminal project. The Rs 148 crores worth project was supposed to include five stabling lines, one common loop along these lines, one down main line, one up main line, two platforms, three road-over bridges, and one foot-over bridge.

The plan was to develop Nemom as a satellite station to Thiruvananthapuram Central, modelled on the Chennai Basin Bridge Coaching Depot. The project report included coaching facilities to accommodate 30 trains aimed at reducing hectic rail traffic in the area. Ten pit lines, 12 stabling lines and sick lines were supposed to be built. The estimated cost for Phase I of the project was Rs 116.57 Crore.

The need for Nemom Terminal project arose, as there is no land available at the Thiruvananthapuram central yard for further expansions. Land acquisition would also be difficult in the area near the Central station. Considering land availability and proximity to the Central Station, Nemom became the first choice. Nemom is also considered ideal for connectivity to the proposed Vizhinjam International Container Terminal and future infrastructure developments. 

The Southern Railways submitted the detailed project report to the Railway Board on November 2, 2019. But after more than two years of no action, Railways decided against the project. According to the communication from the Ministry of Railways, the second coaching terminal at Kochuveli can take care of the traffic on completion of the terminal work. Hence, the Nemom project was not found justified.

The Nemom station is located to the south of the Central station, whereas Kochuveli is situated in the north, on the outskirts of the city. As most of the trains in Thiruvananthapuram operate in the northern direction, trains originating or ending at Nemom (to or from the northern regions) would also connect to Thiruvananthapuram Central railway station, whereas trains starting from or terminating at Kochuveli would not enter the city.

The shelving of the Nemom Coaching Terminal has also rendered those who gave land for the project in great uncertainty. Those who handed over the land to the railways are unaware of the further procedures. They are unsure whether the land would be returned to them or they would get the compensation. Speaking to a Malayalam news channel, Baby Kamalam, who handed her house and 10 cents of land for the project, said the house and the plot was her only asset. Now that the property is acquired by the Railways, she can not sell the land or avail loans keeping it as security.

Kerala Revenue Department had issued a notification to acquire over 13 hectares of private land for Thiruvananthapuram Central – Nemom Railway lane doubling and for Nemom Coaching Terminal project. Rs 13.3 crore was also allocated for compensating 355 families affected by rehabilitation in four villages- Thycaud, Thirumala, Nemom and Pallichal. 

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