Few other high-sounding projects would have met the fate of the Cherthala-based Autokast’s proposed joint venture with the Indian Railways. Five years after its inception and after being in the news regularly, courtesy repeated assurances from Central ministers, the future of the project still remains in the dark.

And on Tuesday, as the nation prepares for another Railway budget, employees and well-wishers of Autokast are once again waiting anxiously to know what will be the fate of a long-awaited dream.

The reason why their wait has been going, despite the proposed joint venture being allotted necessary funds way back in 2007, is the recent confusion over another project of the Railways, one about which the Railways has not discussed with the State Government, but has initiated steps to acquire land.

According to Autokast managing director R. Rajesh, there were recent assurances from the Union Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi that all was well with the joint venture of Autokast with the Railways, except for one change. The earlier proposal to come out with fabricated rail bogies had now been changed to manufacture of cast steel aluminium bogies, which were much lighter than conventional bogies and also would be used for metro rail projects coming up.

Even as employees at Autokast heaved a sigh of relief on this, they were in for yet another shock, when locals from the western side of the factory gathered, alleging that the Railway project would take away their precious land. The basis of this fear hinged itself upon reports that the Railways was looking for a 40-acre plot of land for a new project near Autokast.

“But we have not received any communication on this from the Railways, and neither has the State Government informed us about any such project,” Mr. Rajesh said, adding that there were indications were of a new rail component factory. But this appeared a distant reality given the Raliways’ current financial position.

“Whatsoever it may be, we have already conveyed our interest and expertise to host any such new project of the Railways, giving details of the Government land that is with us now, which I believe is more than enough for them,” he said.

However, confusion reigns over whether the new project will hamper progress of the earlier joint venture proposal, for which employees and the Autokast management are looking forward to Wednesday, hoping that a new announcement could do away with their uncertainty.

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