PALAKKAD: The coach factory sanctioned for Palakkad in lieu of the bifurcation of the division to create the Salem division appears to have reached nowhere even after seven years as yet another railway budget was presented on Thursday.
The coach factory was allotted to Kerala in 2008-09 in lieu of taking away 65 per cent of the Palakkad division to form the Salem division by the then Minister of State for Railways Velu of the PMK. The division was bifurcated when the LDF was in power. A sum of Rs 35 crore was earmarked in the 2011-12 budget and Rs 56.69 crore in 2012-13 for the coach factory. In the last two years, it was confined to setting aside a token provision.
In February 2012, former Union Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi of the UPA government had said at the time of the foundation stone laying ceremony that the Rs 550 crore coach factory would be implemented under public private partnership (PPP) in which the Railways would hold 24 per cent and the private partner which will be selected through global expression of interest the balance 76 per cent. Two Expressions of Interests were floated by the Railway Ministry for a joint venture partner but none of the global firms who had the technology to manufacture aluminium coaches responded. The present status of the coach factory was that a total of 230.1 acres have been acquired and handed over by the State Government to the Railways. The Railways paid Rs 32.44 acres as consideration for the land. In August 2012, Railways took over 92.04 hectares of forest land. Though the State Government has requested another 36 hectares to be denotified, the Ministry of Environment and Forests is yet to give its clearance.
Consequently, the compound wall has been built on three sides over a distance of 2.5 kilometres at an outlay of Rs 3.5 crore. It is only after the denotification of the remaining area that the wall will be completed. In 2015, M B Rajesh, MP said that he had met the SAIL Managing Director and spoken to him who had evinced interest in the project. Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu was also appraised of the interest of SAIL.
It was then said that it was SAIL which has to formally write a letter to the Railways expressing its interest to partner the project and the Railway Board will take a decision. It will later be ratified by the Union Cabinet. But at the Budget presentation on Thursday, the interest of SAIL has not been mentioned raising the uncertainty over the project.