KOCHI: Lidar Survey of Sabari rail project, extending from Angamaly to Erumeli, is all set to take off. According to the officials with the Kerala Rail Development Corporation, the ground control points for survey have already been established. They are awaiting a respite from the ongoing torrential rain to continue with the project.
“We have stopped the Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) survey owing to adverse weather. It uses light rays to detect locations, and so we need favourable weather to take it forward. Although we haven’t fixed a deadline yet, we are hoping to complete the survey soon,” said a K-Rail official.
The agency has already completed the assessment of the Angamaly-Ramapuram stretch and handed over the recommendation to Indian Railways. Currently, they are surveying the existing alignment approved by the southern railway and the state government between Ramapuram and Erumeli. The revised estimate will be submitted to the Railway Board within two weeks of wrapping up the survey.
The High Court has already disposed of a public interest litigation filed regarding the project alignment. Earlier, the state has agreed to bear 50 per cent of the total cost of the 116-km rail line using funds from the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB). The Ministry of Railways is awaiting the revised estimate to decide on bearing the remaining cost.
The agency has surveyed the Thiruvananthapuram-Kasaragod Silverline semi-high speed project too using LiDAR. Railways will handle the construction and maintenance of the project being executed in the public-private partnership (PPP) model.
Station development and the rest of the responsibilities will be divided among other stakeholders. Once it becomes operational, income will be shared equally between the state and the Railways, after deducting the construction expenses.
Action councils upbeat
Action councils formed by families affected by the project have had their properties frozen for decades now, and it has been a long ordeal. “We are hopeful that the uncertainty over the project will be over soon. As Railways have already executed construction work worth `254 crore for Sabari Rail till Kalady, it is appalling to see the delay from the railway’s side. They have completed a social impact study of the alignment in Ernakulam district. Railways should go ahead with the project using the financial support from the state government,” said Jijo Panachinani, secretary, Sabari Rail Central Action Council.
Circular suburban network
Given the PPP model, the action council members are calling for viable models like suburban networks for optimal revenue generation. The state planning board had earlier voiced for Pala-Ettumanoor extension to ensure maximum utilisation of Sabari Rail. “Railway officials should implement two extension projects — Erumeli-Punalur and Pala-Ettumanoor. The Ettumanoor extension only requires Railways to construct an extra 15km, which can be used as a suburban network for Ernakulam,” said Jijo. They also point out that these extensions will provide connectivity from southern Kerala to Sabarimala and can also act as a parallel line between Thrissur and Thiruvananthapuram. “The Erumeli-Punalur extension will be around 75 km and offers an alternative line for Railways to ply long-distance trains. It also provides much-needed connectivity between Tuticorin and Vallarpadam container terminal,” he added.
Kerala Rail Development Corporation will resume the Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) surve soon