THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Minister for Railways Ashwini Vaishnaw has said Kerala is the beneficiary of a “phenomenal” budget allocation of Rs 2,744 crore for rail development, which is seven times the Rs 372 crore earmarked by the UPA government during 2009-14. Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, he stressed that the port-corridor project, which is one of the three major economic corridor projects announced in the budget, will benefit the state. The project involves developing nearly 20,100km of new track.
“The Modi government has not shown any discrimination in budget allocation as the policy is guided by ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas’,” said the minister. He said the demand for separate zones and divisions no long mattered as funding is guided by the same policy.
The minister said that Vande Bharat sleeper and Vande Bharat metro trains would be rolled out this year. “We are in the process of adjusting the curves of tracks in Kerala. Once it is completed we will be able to operate Vande Bharat trains at 160-180 kmph,” Vaishnaw said.
The minister reiterated that the railway is considering the best possible alignment, out of the two proposed, for the Sabari line. We would like the railway service closer to Sabarimala than a proposal to end the journey 27km away, he said.
The budgeted amount is likely to be channelized for the ongoing projects, including the redevelopment of 35 stations, track development, and other infrastructural projects. Divisional Railway Manager (DRM), Thiruvananthapuram, Manish Thaplyal said the emphasis is on completing a major portion of the track development work before monsoon.
‘SilverLine heading nowhere’
Vaishnaw also hinted that the Silver Line project was heading nowhere as Kerala was no longer pursuing it for reasons best known to state authorities. “I do not want to be involved in a blame game,” he added. The minister said the railway is working with the state on contributions, land acquisition, and law and order issues. According to him progress will happen when the state also steps up action, especially in land acquisition.
The minister’s statement on Silver Line has caught the state government by surprise. “The government has been taking all steps to realize the Silver Line project. It was the BJP state president who said the project would be allowed to materialize. I do not know why the railway minister made this baseless statement,” said V Abdurahiman, the minister responsible for railways in the state.
Railway divisions in the state expressed reservations about sharing land for the Silver Line project and left the final decision to the Railway Board.
Railway officials are of the view that railway land should be used for future expansion of railways whether it is track doubling or commercial development. Under the revised plan, K-Rail has scaled down the land requirement from 183 hectares to 107.8 hectares. The major acquisition comes on the Tirur-Kasaragod stretch where the Silver Line runs parallel to the existing railway line. The Rs 64,000-crore project is a joint venture of the railway ministry and Kerala government.
Fillip to vande bharat
Vande Bharat sleeper and Vande Bharat metro trains likely to be rolled out this year
Process of adjusting curves of tracks ongoing. Once finished, Vande Bharat trains can be operated at 160-180 kmph
Attempt to hide neglect
Kerala minister in-charge of Railways V Abdurahiman said the Union minister’s response is contrary to facts and is part of a strategy to hide neglect. “Blaming the state government for railway development is politically motivated,” he said. “The interim Union budget presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman shows the extreme face of the Union government’s severe neglect towards Kerala. The budget completely turned its back on Kerala’s needs related to rail transport. None of the state’s demands were considered and no new projects were sanctioned,” he said. “Although two Vande Bharat trains are currently plying in the state, the detention of other carriages for these trains is causing severe distress. New rail schemes and new routes are needed to solve Kerala’s travel problem. But all these demands were rejected,” said minister Abdurahiman.