Kerala Plans Semi High-Speed Corridor, Between Kasaragod and Trivandrum
Kerala may soon get its first semi high-speed rail corridor between north Kasaragod and Trivandrum. Estimated to cost about Rs 66,079 crores, this infrastructure project will cut the travel time between the two strategic locations by eight hours.
Work in progress
The Kerala cabinet has already given its assent for this project. The Kerala Rail Development Corporation Limited (KRDCL), a joint venture of the Kerala government and the Ministry of Railways, will be in charge of this project. If there are no delays, this mega-project should see the light of day by 2024. Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that while this project will reduce travel time, it will also check traffic, pollution and the rising cost of being dependent on fuel.
Of Kerala’s 14 districts, 11 may see strengthened connectivity by 2024. Kochuveli, Kollam, Chengannur, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Tirur, Kozhikode, Kannur and Kasargod will be halting points on the line, while Trivandrum to Ernakulam (Kochi) will be a 90-minute ride.
How feasible and viable?
A few months back, Systra, which is KRDCL’s consultant, studied the project and estimated a six per cent rate of return, making it financially viable for the state. While the rail line's speed is estimated to be 200 kms per hour, previous reports had put it at 180 kms per hour. On the whole, the semi high-speed train is a green project, tapping solar energy. Feasibility tests also estimated that about 1.8 metric tonnes of carbon emissions will be cut down as 21 per cent of road traffic will find an alternative in the rail route. The Detailed Project Report (DPR) may be ready by October 2019, while work is expected to commence from 2020. About 1,200 hectares of land will be required for this project but every effort has been made, to ensure that the alignment is only through thinly populated areas, so that fewer number of settlements will need to be displaced.
For commuters, the cost is expected to come up to Rs 2.75 per km. Initially, there would be nine coaches but in case of demand, three more coaches will be added, taking the total number of coaches to 12. Santhosh Mathew, a city-based broker says that there is a lot of pressure on the local rail network and the semi high-speed rail connectivity comes as good news. End-to-end connectivity to Trivandrum and Kochi, is a must. “A lot of people travel for work and college every day. For them, it comes as a blessing. Only Kochi has had the good luck of getting a metro rail so far and the terrain in other parts, is very difficult to traverse. Infrastructure projects like this, will help shift the traffic from roads to rails,” says Mathew.
Other semi high-speed rail corridors in India
Other recently-inaugurated semi high-speed corridors in India include the Delhi-Agra corridor and the Mumbai-Goa corridor, which were inaugurated in 2016 and 2017, respectively. The Railway Budget of 2014 also approved funds for almost nine corridors, while another two were approved in the 2019 Budget. The Delhi-Meerut corridor is under-construction currently.