Railways’ initiatives to eliminate Level Crossing gates hits roadblock in land acquisition

Delay in acquiring land for rail overbridge construction to blame

PALAKKAD: The inordinate delay in acquiring land has apparently held up the Railways’ plan to eliminate level crossing gates on arterial roads in north Kerala, especially in Kozhikode and Kannur districts.

The reasons cited for the delay in acquisition of land for construction of rail overbridges (ROB) are the reluctance of local people to part with their property and the lackadaisical attitude of elected representatives. Incidentally, the Ministry of Railways had earmarked huge funds under the Road Safety Funds for eliminating all level crossing gates in Palakkad Division.

However, the funds either go underutilised or get lapsed over a period of time, senior Railway officials told.

The Palakkad Division has 155 level crossing gates along the 580-km track under its jurisdiction in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and the Union Territory of Mahe. Of them, 103 gates are between Podanur and Mangaluru Central.

No unmanned crossings

The division, like elsewhere in the State, has no unmanned level crossings. At the same time, the Railways have framed a policy to eliminate level crossings in a time-bound manner to decongest busy roads in major towns and cities in Kerala.

For the record, a proposal had been worked out for the construction of 56 ROBs in Palakkad Division four years ago. Of them, 54 were proposed in Kerala, and only eight have been completed.

Earlier, modalities had been planned to execute the project on a cost-sharing basis where both the Railways and the respective State governments contribute 50% of the funds. However, Kerala has agreed to fully fund the work of as many as 12 ROBs in the northern parts of the State.

Progress in work

A review of projects has revealed that land acquisition issues have stood in the way of the construction of as many as 46 ROBs. At the same time, there has been some progress in Kottikulam and Kanhangad yards as well as the two proposed ROBs at Thalassery and Kodumunda.

Govt-funded projects

In the case of government-funded ROBs, officials said progress had been made at level crossings at Tanur, Chettipadi, and Palakkad – Akathethara.

While the Railways have completed rail overbridgeconstruction at Pavangad, there has been no progress in the work on approach road.

The projects in Kozhikode and Kannur districts such as West Hill, one of the busiest, for which the Railways had sanctioned work in 2002-2003, work on gates near Elathur, Kollam-Koyilandy, Muchukunnu – Anakkulangara, and Payyoli, the third gate near Mahe, gates near Punnool, Koduvalli, Thalassery, and Edakkad – Airport Road still remains on paper, officials said.