MRVC study finds it cost-effective

The Rapid Rail Transit System (RRTS) proposed for the 125.65-km stretch between Thiruvananthapuram and Chengannur has been found to be cost-effective, and requires only an upgrade of the existing railway network.

The corridor can emerge as a continuous urban segment paving the way for the emergence of service industries, development of integrated townships, accelerated regional development, and job creation through improved connectivity, a feasibility study on the RRTS carried out by the Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation (MRVC) at the initiative of the State government has revealed.

In its report submitted to the government and presented to the Cabinet on Wednesday, the MRVC has said the proposed RRTS will cost Rs.3,330.78 crore as per current estimates, and the funding is “expected to come from the State.”

Estimated cost

Of the estimated cost, Rs.1,200 is needed for rolling stock, Rs.1,025 crore for civil work, Rs.554.46 crore for signalling and telecom, Rs.172 crore for electrical work, and the remaining for other expenses.

The RRTS for the State was mooted by the former Divisional Railway Manager Rajesh Agrawal to make travel hassle free for short-distance commuters, overcome the inability to introduce additional trains with the existing infrastructure, and lessen the congestion on roads.

As the MRVC has ruled out the construction of a new rail corridor in view of the hurdles in acquiring land, the existing double line on the busy stretch that has 25-kV AC traction, broad gauge, and multi-aspect colour light signalling will have to be upgraded.

Favourable factors

The factors in favour of RRTS are the 27 stations on the stretch, including major ones such as Thiruvananthapuram Central, Kollam Junction, Kayamkulam Junction, and Chengannur; average inter-station distance of 4.65 km; bi-directional peak trips, and a line leading to Ernakulam via Alappuzha and another one via Chengannur.

The MRVC has identified challenges in the form of 78 level crossing gates; gradient of 1:100 that poses a challenge to automatic signalling system; crowding during peak hours; land acquisition/resettlement and rehabilitation; and non-uniform platform heights and trespassing, especially at major stations.

For the RRTS to take off, augmentation of the stations at Thiruvananthapuram Central and Kollam and yard modifications at Thiruvananthapuram Central, Kochuveli, Kollam, and Mavelikara have been recommended.

Raising the level of 20 platforms on the stretch to the standard height of 840 mm and Automatic Block Signalling (ABS) with Train Protection and Warning System for enhanced safety have been suggested.

The RRTS will see the railway line divided into a series of sections or blocks of one km, and the average speed will be 57 km per hour.

The study has found that as much as 92 per cent of road users, 76.25 per cent of bus commuters, and 76.04 per cent of rail commuters are willing to shift to the RRTS once it is operational. The first RRTS suburban train is expected in 36 months.

The daily average expense for journeys on the proposed RRTS will be Rs.87.77 compared to Rs.60.54 by bus and Rs.237.91 by car (based on journeys on 25 days a month).

The minimum fare recommended in the RRTS is Rs.10 with a price range of 80 paise to Rs.2 per km.

Funding options

The State has been asked to explore options such as State funding, multilateral funding through the Finance Ministry, Ministry of Urban Development’s funding for urban rail-based transport projects, tax-free bonds, borrowing from Indian Railway Finance Corporation Ltd., and loan from bank and financial institutions for the RRTS.

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