Coach factory was announced in 2008-09 rail budget

Uncertainty prevails over the fate of the Rs.550-crore coach factory at Kanjikode in Palakkad district as the construction of the boundary wall around the 92.04 hectares of land handed over by the State to Railways and preparation of the request for proposal for inviting global competitive tenders are dragging on.

Only Rs.216.83 crore has been allocated to the State in this year’s railway budget, and of this only Rs.56.69 crore has been set apart for the coach factory project. Also, despite top-level consultations, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) is yet to de-notify the 36 hectares of forestland additionally sought by the Railways for the project.

Railways are unhappy with the way things are progressing for the coach factory, announced in the 2008-09 railway budget. Though it was announced that Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) will partner with the project, no progress has been made on this front.

The Rail India Technical and Engineering Services (RITES) is yet to frame a Request for Proposal (RFP) for inviting global competitive tenders for the project. “Once the RFP is framed and submitted, we can seek Expression of Interest (EOI) and invite global tenders for selecting a partner,” a top railway official said.

Rather than adopting the public-private partnership mode with the private investor having a 76 per cent stake, a public-public sector partnership was best suitable for the project, the official said. A trilateral agreement with a competent partner, technology support, progressive transfer of technology and indigenisation could do wonders for the project. “The nod of Railways and a Cabinet decision are needed for adopting the new mode,” he said.

In August 2012, Railways took over 92.04 hectares of forestland at Kanjikode for the factory, paying Rs.32.44 crore. Non-availability of sand has also affected the construction of the boundary wall around this land.

“We are managing with the sand issued from the seized quota of the District Collector following the intervention of the government. The monsoon has also affected the work. Nearly 15 per cent of the work remains to be completed,” he said. The work is expected to be completed by September. So far, work on 2.5 km of boundary wall has been completed at a cost of Rs.3.5 crore.

Railways are seeking another 36 hectares of forestland to lay the assembly lines to their shape and specifications. The Chief Planning and Development Officer has already taken up the matter with the MoEF twice. Solar fencing in the 36 hectares will be taken up after the approval is given.

Railways are planning to set up facilities for making modern Linke Holfmann Busch (LHB)-design stainless-steel and state-of-the-art aluminium coaches. As many as 400 coaches are to be manufactured every year in Kanjikode.

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