Previous government had set aside Rs. 300 crore to cover cost of work scheduled for this year
The meagre allocation to Kerala in Tuesday’s railway budget will not affect Ernakulam-Kottayam- Kayankulam track-doubling.
An amount of Rs. 300 crore had been allotted by the previous UPA government for doubling track through Kottayam in its interim railway budget announced in February. “This amount is sufficient for works scheduled for this year. Track doubling can be speeded up if we get similar allocation in next year’s budget as well,” said Dani Thomas, the Chief Administrative Officer (Construction) of Southern Railway.
Of the Rs. 300 crore, Rs. 212 crore will be spent for acquiring land and the rest for track-laying and related works. Though funds are available, the State government has handed over to the railway only 10 hectares of the 40 hectares of land needed for doubling track through Kottayam. This is the sole major hurdle to track-doubling in the district.
On inordinate delay in commissioning Mulanthuruthy-Piravom section where track doubling is over, Mr Thomas said electrification work is pending and the track would be opened to trains in another two months.
Mr. Thomas said doubling a kilometre of track in the Ernakulam-Kumbalam stretch (in the Ernakulam-Alappuzha-Kayankulam route) requires as much as Rs 20 crore, since there are many bridges in the way. Track doubling through Kottayam costs an average of Rs. 12 crore per km.
President of All Kerala Railway Users’ Association Paul Manvettom welcomed the sector-wise allocation of nominal funds to double track through Alappuzha. Doubling is yet to kick-start through Alappuzha since the State government has not handed over land, neither is it willing to share half the project cost.
The railway had sought 20 hectares of land to double the Ambalapuzha-Haripad track and also invited tenders for the work anticipating that the State government would fast track the process. But that did not happen. Next in line would be doubling the Ernakulam-Kumbalam-Thuravur section, railway sources said.