Railways unable to identify partner for project

The Rs.550-crore rail coach factory at Kanjikode in Palakkad remains uncertain with the rail budget “silent” on it and Railways unable to identify a partner for the public-private partnership project.

Union Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge’s announcement that the rail wheel plant at Chhapra, rail coach factory at Rae Bareli, and the diesel component factory at Dankuni, announced along with the Kanjikode factory in 2008-09, have commenced production puts things in perspective.

Officials are sceptical whether the factory, that would have triggered development of rail network and industrialisation in the State, will take off the way things are progressing.

Authorities have adopted a go-slow approach as the Request For Qualification (RFQ) floated to identify a private player for the project elicited response from a Chinese firm.

Railways are planning to set up facilities for making Linke Holfmann Busch (LHB)-design stainless steel and state-of-the-art aluminium coaches at Kanjikode.

An official said it would be difficult to get a private player as the LBH technology was restricted to a handful of players.

“Unless it is made a South Asian manufacturing base, such players will not look towards Kanjikode. The domination of Chinese firms in this sector is another issue that cannot be ignored.”

The move to partner Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) had also failed to take-off as the project was on the PPP mode.

Additional land

Railways had been able to complete only 70 per cent construction of the boundary wall around the 92.04 hectares handed over by the State.

The boundary work could not be completed unless the additional land sought was handed over to Railways.

Sources said the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) was yet to de-notify 36 hectares of forestland, additionally sought. The land was being sought to lay the assembly lines to its shape and specifications.

Going for public-public sector partnership instead of the public-private partnership mode would help put the project back on rails, it is said.

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