The hurdles for setting up the Rail Coach Factory (RCF) announced for Palakkad four years ago in the Union railway budget had been cleared and the foundation stone for the coach manufacturing unit that is to change the industrial scenario of the state will be laid on October 22.

Announcing this after a four-hour meeting convened by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy here on Monday to set the priorities for railway development in Kerala, the Union Railway Minister said the railways have in principle cleared the eagerly awaited project as the land had been given free of cost by the state for the proposed RCF.

The state wanted the proposed RCF to remain as a PSU and agreed to the salient features of the project subject to the condition that land value would be treated as equity of Government of Kerala, if the coach manufacturing project is converted into a joint venture in future. Mr. Trivedi said the modalities in this regard will be worked out by the railways and the state soon.

On the Coach and Wagon Component Factory at Sherthala announced in the 2007 railway budget, the Railway Minister said RITES that had been asked to look into the scope of product-mix and suggest an alternative business plan for the manufacture of components for LHB Coaches and other new generation rolling stock is expected by October 15. There are issues in the model suggested and the state will be made a partner and private participation will be looked into if there is a resource crunch, he said.

On the demand for setting up an exclusive railway zone for Kerala, Mr. Trivedi said deliberations in this regard will have to be done at various levels. A Chief Administrative Officer will be appointed as nodal officer to liaison between Centre and state for railway development.

The Union Minister said the 16350/16349 Nilambur Road-Thiruvananthapuram Central Rajya Rani Link Express that will link Nilambur with the state capital will start plying from October 23 and the Mangalore-Palakkad Intercity Express from October end. The railway electrification of Thiruvananthapuram-Kanyakumary section will be completed before December 31.

The Railways was ready for commencing the 15905/15906 Kanniyakumary-Thiruvananthapuram-Dibrugarh Vivek Express that will cover over 4500 km of the railway network of the country from Assam to Kanniyakumary in the south. The Railways would also consider the demand for introducing more coaches for women in trains. The Mysore-Telicherry line, though not feasible economically, will be looked into at the board level, he added.

On the railway medical college sanctioned for the state capital, the Union Minister said the railways are ready if the land is made available for such facilities. The Ministry of Health is the implementing and the state can provide land for this project. The Union Minister said the state should come forward to allow private participation for the Rs. 20,000 crore High speed rail corridor connecting Thiruvananthapuram and Mangalore. Models are needed, he added.

Describing the meeting as “fruitful”, the Union Railway Minister said it was aimed at ensuring transparency, to reach out to the people and to know the problems at the grass root level. “This is part of the meetings that was kicked off from Nagaland. We are ready to hold meetings in all the states if the Chief Ministers of the concerned ministers agree”, he added

Chief Minister, Oommen Chandy said the high-level committee headed by Chief Secretary will hold meeting every month as suggested at the meeting to sort issues between the various agencies of the state and the railways and to expedite railway development. The railways have agreed to examine the issue of 6,000 odd vendors in the Malabar area, he said.

Union Minister of State for Railways, K. H. Muniyappa, Union Minister for Power K. C. Venugopal, Union Minister of State for Food and Civil Supplies K. V. Thomas, 21 MP’s from the state and 14 of the cabinet colleagues of Mr. Chandy, Chairman of Railway Board Vinay Mittal, Member (Mechanical) Sanjiv Handa, Member (Engineering) A. P. Mishra, Advisor Safety Sunil Kumar, General Manager, Southern Railway Deepak Krishan, all the Principal Heads of the various wings of Southern Railway and Divisional Railway Managers of Palakkad and Thiruvananthapuram, S. K. Raina and Rajiv Dutt Sharma respectively attended the meeting.

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