THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The state Cabinet on Wednesday gave its approval to the detailed project report (DPR) and final alignment of the Thiruvananthapuram-Kasaragod semi high-speed rail corridor, also called Silverline. Despite the financial crunch faced by the state, especially due to Covid-19 and lockdown, nod was given to the Kerala Rail Development Corporation (K-Rail) — in charge of executing the Rs 63,941-crore project — to approach nationalised banks and financial institutions to mobilise fund for land acquisition.
Minor changes were made to the alignment on the 57.5-km Vadakara-Thalassery stretch before making it final. After the Puducherry government expressed concern about the original pathway, saying it bifurcated Mahe which comes under the Union Territory, the alignment was reworked by skipping the district, with the line running parallel with the existing railway track. A similar change was made in the case of Payyoli too.K-Rail will have to acquire about 1,226 hectares of land, on an average 25-metre width, for the 530.6-km corridor.
Half of the project cost will be raised through loans. K-Rail can approach multilateral credit agencies like Japan International Cooperation Agency, KfW of Germany, Asian Development Bank and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank for long-term loans at a low interest. Railway lines between Thiruvananthapuram and Tirur (310km) will take a different path while those between Tirur and Kasaragod (222km) will be laid parallel to the existing railway alignment.
The DPR will now go for the approval of the Railway Board, NITI Aayog and Union Cabinet. The project has already received in-principle approval from the Ministry of Railways.“Besides fast-tracking the state’s development, the project will impart momentum to the economic activity in the post-Covid phase. It’ll generate a lot of jobs during and after its completion, and offer plenty of opportunities to the NRKs returning home,” said K-Rail Managing Director V Ajith Kumar. “Good compensation will be given for the land being acquired for the project.”
Silverline is a joint venture of the Ministry of Railways and the Kerala government. K-Rail’s board of directors had approved its DPR in April. The work on the project, which will connect Thiruvananthapuram and Kasaragod in four hours, is expected to be over by 2025. It will also connect the major international airports in Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi, as well as IT hubs Technopark and Infopark. The feasibility study for K-Rail was conducted by Paris-based engineering and consulting group Systra.