Study finds 531-km Semi-HSR line between Thiruvananthapuram-Kasaragod feasible

Kerala Rail Development Corporation had recently floated a tender for Helicopter/Aircraft based Aerial LiDAR Survey on the proposed Semi-HSR corridor. The survey covers the L-Sections, C-Sections, Topographic survey, Bare Earth Digital Elevation Model, Digital Terrain Model, Digital Surface Model and Contour mapping apart from Orthophoto for the alignment.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:  The proposed 531-km semi-high-speed railway line from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod to improve connectivity, reduce congestion in the State’s road network and make travel hassle-free has been found ‘feasible and financially viable’. Also, dedicated railway lines to Thiruvananthapuram International Airport and Cochin International Airport with railway stations for inter-modal transport have been found feasible.

Kerala State Govt. approaches JICA for ₹34,000-cr. loan for the project to be executed by State and Railways. The government has expedited steps for the 531.45-km semi-high-speed rail line from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod, found ‘feasible and economically viable’, by seeking aid from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and preparing a detailed project report (DPR) for the ₹56,443-crore project. The government has approached the country office of the JICA through the Union Department of Economic Affairs to secure ₹34,000 crore as loan for the project to be executed on cost-sharing basis by the State and Railways.  Systra, general consultant for the KRDCL, has suggested in the feasibility report that the State and Railways mobilise ₹10,000 crore each. The State, in addition, will have to bear the cost of acquiring 1,226 hectares in 11 districts.

The aim is to secure assistance from the JICA, the governmental agency that coordinates official development assistance for the government of Japan, through the DEA at least during 2021. As per the feasibility report, the internal rate of return (IRR) is 5.6% and 8.1% for 30 and 50 years respectively.

Semi-high-speed trains will move at 130-180 km per hour to cover the north-south rail corridor from Kochuveli to Kasaragod in four hours. Air-conditioned train sets on the lines of the newly introduced Train 18 have been proposed. The semi-high-speed trains will halt at 10 stations — Kochuveli, Kollam, Chengannur, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Tirur, Kozhikode, Kannur and Kasaragod.

The third and fourth railway lines, traversing through 11 districts, except Alappuzha, Idukki and Wayanad, will be away from the existing railway line in the 300-km Thiruvananthapuram-Shoranur section. From Thirunavaya to Kasaragod, it will be parallel to the existing rail line with railway bypasses at Vadakara and Thalaserry.

Meanwhile Ministry of Railways through its PSU – Konkan Railway Corporation Ltd is planning to build Mumbai-Mangalore double line in line with Thiruvananthapuram-Kasaragod Semi-HSR so that the connectivity between Thiruvananthapuram to Mumbai and then to Ahmedabad can prove to be highly beneficial for the passengers plying from the Southern most part of the country to the Western most part of India i.e. Ahmedabad.

Paris-based engineering and consulting group Systra, the general consultant of Kerala Railway Development Corporation Limited (KRDCL), the special purpose vehicle set up to execute ‘viable’ projects on a cost-sharing basis between the State and Railways, in its feasibility report has put the estimated cost at ₹56,000 crore, including cost of land acquisition.

The project has been found to be financially viable with a Rate of Return of 6% and the feasibility report needs the clearance of the KRDCL, the State government and Railways to move ahead, Transport Department officials told on Monday.

The alignment fixed has been proposed through thinly populated areas to lessen displacement of people and only 1,200 hectares will have to be acquired.

In cities, the option of elevated lines has been mooted. For viaducts, 15 metres and for formation, 21 to 25 metres had been proposed.

Alignment has been proposed for laying railway line to the premier airport of the State and to Cochin International Airport.

Final location survey will have to be done as land from Railways and the Cochin airport (CIAL) is needed for laying the line and constructing station.

Though the rail line proposed is for a 200 km per hour speed, the trains will run at a maximum of 180 km per hour. The train sets with nine cars will be initially introduced and later will be extended to 12 and 15 cars. The coaches will be made of aluminium.

“It will be a green project tapping solar energy. As much as 21% of road traffic is to be shifted to rail and economic savings had been worked out to be 1.8 lakh metric tonnes of carbon,” sources said.

With the government announcing that work on the railway lines will begin in 2020, the works to prepare the Detailed Project Report has commenced. “The DPR will be ready in October”, sources said.

The LiDAR Survey will involve carrying out a data capturing for detailed Topographic Survey along the alignment for 300m width on each side of the Central Line of the proposed corridor showing all civil assets and infrastruture and other ground features. The processing of data will be for 100m width i.e. 50m either sides of the CL of the alignment. For addtional requirements of processing raw data already captured due to change in alignment during alignment design, addtional areas will be processed covering all other outputs in CAD format. The bids for carrying out soil investigation will be floated soon.

Discussions were also held on last mile connectivity in all those difficult terrains with Ropeway Cars linking the HSR Stations enroute.