"Only Rs 70 crore was allotted in the 2013-’14 budget, though the demand was for Rs 250 crore,” a senior official said.
Morsel of fund in railway budgets for completing track doubling in the Ernakulam-Kollam stretch has thrown works off the track.
“We need at least Rs 300 crore each year for the next three years to complete track doubling through Kottayam and Alappuzha. Only Rs 70 crore was allotted in the 2013-’14 budget, though the demand was for Rs 250 crore,” a senior official in the railway’s construction wing said.
He was doubtful of meeting the revised track doubling deadline of 2017.
“By the present pace, it will take another 20 years for track doubling. The paltry fund allocation has already increased the cost of land acquisition and doubling to Rs 1,100 crore,” he said.
“MPs from the State — eight of whom are Ministers in the Union Cabinet — must jointly demand the State’s rightful share for doubling works since express and other trains that pass through Kerala are much slower than those in other States,” he said. The inordinate delay in doubling has also held up introduction of new trains due to non-availability of free tracks.
For example, officials said Rs 100 crore was required exclusively for land acquisition in Kurupunthara-Chingavanom stretch. But the railways had set apart only Rs 20 crore in the last budget. At present, most hassles for executing doubling works to Kottayam, except the tunnel near Kottayam, have been overcome. In Alappuzha, a few bridges have to be built. “Sufficient and timely handing over of funds is crucial for works to gather pace,” sources said.
In Ernakulam district, doubling the Mulanthuruthy-Piravom track is expected to be over by January.
Chief Administrative Officer (Construction) of Southern Railway Dani Thomas said land acquisition hassles were almost over in both the Kottayam and Alappuzha routes. “Land owners are getting market rate fixed by district-level purchase committees as compensation. There is also a relief and rehabilitation package.”
Mr Thomas spoke of how problems associated with sourcing and transporting mud (red earth) for track doubling persist despite the State government convening three meetings.
Obtaining permit for sourcing earth is tough while opposition from people in many localities is hampering transportation of mud.