Putting a dampener on Kochi’s rail infrastructure dreams, Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge’s maiden budget had nothing new to offer the city.
All the agitations, made by political and apolitical groups, demanding better amenities for the existing and dilapidated stations bore no fruit. While the Old Railway Station’s development had been the centre of agitations over the past few months, the project found no mention in the interim report.
Harihara Kumar, general convenor, Old Railway Station Vikasana Samithi, said the stance of the Railway Minister was unjustifiable. “The need to revive the station was explained in great length to the top officials. The station can be made operational with a mere `5 crore. Every year we expects a fair share from the budget, but are left disappointed,” he said and added that steps to intensify demands for the station will be strengthened in the coming days.
P Rajeeve MP who brought the issue of Old Railway station before the Railway Minister, said the budget proved very disappointing. “I had personally spoken to the Minister and gave him a sketch and the required amount for the development of the station. It is extremely disappointing that he overlooked the demands. Memorandums to allocate funds for the development of Railway station here have also not been considered,” he said.
When Southern Zone Railway General Manager Rakesh Mishra arrived here for the inauguration of the second escalator at the Ernakulam Junction Station, he had expressed confidence that the station would be demarcated a specific sum for its development in the budget.
Bottling Plant Plan Ignored
Projects like setting up of a bottling plant at Ernakulam and augmentation of the freight-handling facilities at Kalamassery have been ignored this year too. The development of Tripunithura Railway Station along with other suburb stations still continue to be a distant dream.
The MP said the UPA government’s attitude towards the state is obvious in the budget. “There were interim budgets presented even in the past. However, Kerala had never been neglected like this in the past,” he said. All Kerala Railway Passengers’ Association president advocate Mathew Paul expressed ire on the Railways attitude. “The new trains mentioned in this year’s budgets are not sufficient,” he said.
No funds for Doubling Work
The doubling works along the Ernakulam-Kumbalam stretch has reached nowhere as no estimate has been sanctioned so far. In a letter from the state to the Railways, the work should be completed urgently by Railways at its own cost to optimize railway services in the state. However, this was also ignored.
The state government had demanded `50 crore additionally for the doubling works of Kumbalam-Thuravoor in this year’s budget. Chief Administrative Officer, Dani Thomas said they have received `45 crore additionally for the doubling works this year. “However, since this is an interim budget, we will only receive one-fourth of the funds allotted in the previous budget. We have submitted requests through the Chief Minister in this regard ” he said.