CHENNAI: Several new railway lines in the State, some of them sanctioned a decade ago, have not become a reality. Facing issues in land acquisition, fund allocation and other hindrances, work has been frozen in some cases, while it has not started in others.
A classic example is the new line between Tindivanam and Nagari in Andhra Pradesh (179.2 km). Although sanction was given to the project sometime in 2006, there has been very poor progress. Another example which comes to focus is the 36 km long route from Morappur to Dharmapuri, sanctioned at a cost of `134 crore. But, railway sources say they have not been provided with adequate finances.
Another long pending line between Madurai and Thoothukudi via Aruppukottai, was allocated `100 crore, but officials concede they have not spent even a quarter of that fund.
At least half a dozen new lines listed as ongoing works by Southern Railways for the current year, share a similar fate (refer to the box). A senior railway official told Express that availability of land is the main problem. "We are not able to get the required lands even after waiting for 5-6 years," he said. The authorities also acknowledge that there is cost escalation, of 10-15%, every year due to delays.
It has been learnt that the railway ministry is reluctant to give sanction for surveying new railway lines in the State. “In the last three years, there has been no new sanction. The ministry wants the existing projects to be finished first,” a senior official said. The board has given sanction for only one survey, on the Dindigul-Sabarimala route, for which work will soon start.
All eyes on State govt
Railway authorities are pinning their hopes on reaching an agreement with the State government. So far, the governments of Chattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Kerala, Odisha and few others have signed the Joint Venture (JV) agreement to create specific Special Project Vehicles (SPVs). The SPV, with equity participation of Ministry of Railways limited to maximum 50%, would undertake project development and resource mobilization, besides monitoring.
Railway sources told Express that the Tamil Nadu government had raised concerns over the agreement, especially the funding pattern. “Instead of sharing the cost on 50:50 basis, the government wanted to include land as part of their financial commitment. We have clarified some of their concerns and are waiting for a response,” the official said.