50:50 cost mooted for rail project

A fresh ray of hope has come into sight to bring Sabarimala on the railway map of the country with the cash-strapped Railways urging the State government to look into the feasibility of cost-sharing of at least 50 per cent of the Angamaly-Sabarimala rail project.

With this, Railways have placed the onus of kicking off the project on the State again. The project was sanctioned in 1997-98 andhad been hit by several hurdles, including land acquisition.

Union Minister for Railways Dinesh Trivedi in a recent letter to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy put forward the proposal of 50 per cent cost-sharing of the project and requested the State to forward a suitable proposal for consideration to his ministry.

The possibility of getting additional budget is remote at least in the near future for the Angamali-Sabarimala project that is “one of the un-remunerative projects that had not taken off owing to resource constraints and the huge throw-forward liability of the ongoing projects,” Mr. Trivedi said in the letter.

A way out has been found with State governments, particularly Jharkhand, Haryana, Karnataka and Rajasthan, coming forward with cost-sharing proposals ranging from 50 to 75 per cent of the latest estimate.

The Railway Minister said the Angamaly-Sabarimala rail line is very crucial to the development of the region and for fulfilling the aspirations of the people of Kerala. It was pointed out that the project was sanctioned on socio-economic consideration with the objective of rail link to the remote areas of Ernakulam, Idukki, Kottayam and Pathanamthitta and to catalyse growth.

The proposal came close on the heels of the State's request to Railways to adopt the Fast Track Project (FTP) mode to acquire land for speedy completion of the project. Only 14.3 hectares of the total 515 hectares of land needed for the project had been acquired by the State and handed over to Railways. As many as 22 panchayats and four municipalities are covered.

Initially, Railways were in favour of laying the 130-km railway line from Angamaly to Azhutha. The stretch falls under forest area and as many as 11 tunnels had to be created between Erumeli and Azhutha. Besides, there was no added advantage in laying the railway line to Azhutha. Railways have now drastically changed the alignment and decided to terminate the railway line at Erumeli. By this, the proposed Sabari railway line would be only 117 km.

Already, the cost of the proposed project has gone up from the initial estimate of Rs. 550 crore to Rs.1,214 crore.

The Railway Board is also yet to clear the revised estimate and the alignment. The board has to take a decision in the wake of the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for Building Construction, Coastal Regulation Zone, Infrastructure Development and Miscellaneous projects deferring the project in the absence of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report.


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