A sub-committee of the Congress-led UDF, which was given the task of studying the Rs 63,941 crore ‘K-Rail’, a state-of-the-art joint venture of the Indian Railways and the State Government, on Tuesday recommended that it was an unviable project and should not be allowed to go forward.
Incidentally, this is one of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s pet projects, which if done will set up a 529.45 km corridor connecting Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod.
A semi-high-speed train will be able to travel this stretch in a matter of 4 hours at an operational speed of 200 km per hour.
These trains will cover the busy Thiruvananthapuram-Ernakulam stretch in 90 minutes, which at present takes more than four hours.
The K-Rail will be running parallel to the existing railway line from Kasaragod to Tirur, while an alternative green-field alignment has been chosen for the Tirur-Thiruvananthapuram stretch.
Vijayan had mooted this project during his first term (2016-21) and is presently lying before the Centre.
The sub-committee of the United Democratic Front (UDF), led by former State PWD Minister M.K. Muneer in their report has pointed out that the project will cause a big loss to the state exchequer and a huge environmental damage.
Alternatively, the committee has suggested modernisation of the existing railway lines and to beef up the connectivity of the four international airports in the state.
It also points out even if the state government has come out with a cost of over Rs 63,000 crore, a Niti Ayog report points out the cost could well be close to Rs 1.25 lakh crore and at no cost Kerala should go forward with this project.
Incidentally, Muneer while being the PWD Minister in the 2001-2004 A.K. Antony government had proposed a 507-km Kasargod-Thiruvananthapuram Express Highway at a cost of Rs 6,400 crore. As soon as he had presented this project, he came under unprecedented attack from the Left and finally had to drop it.
The Kerala Assembly then had witnessed heated exchange of words between the treasury and opposition benches, which was then led by CPI-M veteran V.S. Achuthanandan, who vehemently opposed it.
The sub-committee will now present their report on Thursday to the UDF high power committee.
Incidentally this comes at a time when Vijayan is expected to take up the K-Rail project during the upcoming Assembly session, scheduled to begin from October first week. According to sources in the know of things, he is determined to go forward with this project.