Kerala Chief Minister submits wish list to Railway Minister
नई दिल्ली New Delhi: The state is pinning hopes for a judicious approach towards the longstanding demands of the region on rail development in the Union railway budget. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy submitted a memorandum highlighting the demands of Kerala to Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Tuesday, including the running of a Thiruvananthapuram-New Delhi Rajdhani Express as a daily train.
Though the demand for a Peninsular Railway Zone has been ticked off by the Union Minister, the state has been assured that the Centre would look into other demands put forth leniently.
Top on the list of demands of the state is undoubtedly the Rail Coach Factory at Palakkad. ‘’The project was announced in the Railway Budget 2008-’09. The State Government has already transferred 239 acres of land to Railways after receiving Rs 33.70 cr as its price. Railways requested for the willingness of the State Government for handing over of the remaining land measuring 94.85 acres to railways at the same rate or lesser rate (being forest land). This proposal is being finalised by the State Government. However, 92.75 acres of the balance land is vested forest and requires diversion. Application for the diversion of the vested forest land has already been made to Deputy Conservator of Forest (Central),’’ Oommen Chandy submitted. ‘’Meanwhile, Chairman Railway Board, has stated that a Detailed Project Report is being prepared by RITES and that Cabinet approval is required for finalising the joint venture through PPP/ICB mode,’’ the Chief Minister pointed out and appealed to the Railway Minister to finalise the JV partner urgently and provide sufficient funds in the Railway Budget 2015-16 for the realisation of the project. On the lagging completion of doubling/electrification/guage conversion/new lines/survey works, Chandy has sought allocation of sufficient funds. ‘’The doubling works of Ernakulam-Kayankulam section via Kottayam and Alappuzha are the most critical work of the railways in Kerala. It should be completed on a priority basis,’’ he said. ‘’A total amount of Rs 340 cr is additionally required in 2014-15 and a total amount of Rs 550 cr in 2015-16 to complete the works. The funds may therefore be provided in the Railway Budget 2015-16,’’ he urged. For the proposed Wagon Manufacturing Factory in Cherthala, a suitable site has been identified and agreed to by the Railways. The state government has decided to give the land free of cost if an assurance is given to the state that the factory would definitely be set up. ‘’ Construction of new railway lines also found detailed mention in the memorandum. The Chief Minister said that the Angamali-Sabari Rail Project is a dream project of Kerala which connects the world famous pilgrim centre Sabarimala with Angamali. ‘’Though there is budget allotment for the project each year, the sanctioned amount is not disbursed in time which causes much delay in the execution of the project,’’ he pointed out. Development of rail infrastructure for connecting the proposed Green Field Airport at Kannur with the existing facilities was also urged. The 236 km-long Nilambur-Sulthan Bathery- Nanjangud railway line will help the comprehensive development of a vast area in Karnataka, Kerala and Tamilnadu, the memorandum said. ‘’Government of Kerala has agreed to bear the pro rata share of the 50 per cent of the cost of construction and has initially announced Rs 5 crore in the state budget for the same in 2014-’15,’’ Chandy said.
The state has accorded ‘in-principle’ sanction for the introduction of suburban services in Thiruvananthapuram-Chengannur/ Harippad sector in Phase-I by installing automatic signaling and constituting a Special Purpose Vehicle to run air-conditioned MEMU/EMU Rakes on this corridor. ‘’The participation of Railways in the project is essential to make it viable,’’ the CM said.
Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has said that it is not possible to sanction special railway zone for Kerala. The Centre made this clear on Tuesday when Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Opposition leader V S Achuthanandan went to meet the Railway Minister.
Later Chandy informed the media about the difficulty expressed by the Centre in allotting special railway zone. However, the minister assured the Kerala leaders of more fund for expanding the basic infrastructure of railways in Kerala. However the Railway Minister assured Kerala CM that the works on Palakkad Coach factory would not be delayed and will be completed within the stipulated time lines.