THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The ambitious Silverline, semi high-speed rail project billed as the game-changer in Kerala’s infrastructure as well as economic growth, has moved an inch closer to reality with Railway Ministry and NITI Aayog - the government’s apex think tank - according sanction to the project. The project has received recommendation from bodies concerned, including Department of Expenditure under the Ministry of Finance.
Now, the proposal is under the consideration of Department of Economic Affairs under the Union Finance Ministry which will forward the proposal to foreign banks like Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Asian Development Bank, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and German Development Bank (KfW).
The approval of the Department of Economic Affairs is necessary for foreign banks to fund the project, which is expected to cost Rs 63,941 crore. V Ajith Kumar, managing director of Kerala Rail Development Corporation Limited (K-Rail), a joint venture of the Indian Railways and state government, told TNIE, “For availing the foreign loan, around 70-80 per cent of the land meant for the project has to be acquired. Once the new cabinet is formed, the state government will fast-track the land acquisition for which the cabinet’sapproval is required,” he said.
As much as 1,383 hectares of land have to be acquired for the project for which around Rs 13,000 crore is required. The Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) and Housing and Urban Development Corporation Ltd (Hudco) have offered Rs3,000 crore and Rs 2,100 crore, respectively, for the project. Hence, K-Rail is hopeful of acquiring the land using these funds apart from foreign bank loans. The state government hopes to raise around Rs33,000 crore from the foreign banks.
“The project got delayed by around three-four months after protracted correspondences with central agencies and state government over the viability of the project. We could convince them on every point they raised. Now it’s only a matter of time to get the Department of Economic Affairs’ nod,” he said. “Since the semi high-speed rail and west coast canal are the flagship projects of the LDF government, the state is eager to take forward these,” he added.
The previous state cabinet had given its approval to the Detailed Project Report (DPR) of the project which is expected to be completed within five years of commencement of the work. The rail line will be laid through least populated areas with 15-25-metre width to limit the acquisition of land to the barest minimum. The land required will be acquired as per the RFCTLARR Act 2013 at market rate. The Centre will have to bear only 3 per cent of the project cost which will come to only around `3,000 crore as equity and rate of railway land.
The Silverline corridor connecting Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod in four hours will enable running of semi high-speed trains at an operational speed of 200 km per hour on the 529.45km stretch. These trains will cover the busy Thiruvananthapuram-Ernakulam stretch in one-and-a-half hours.