S. Anil Radhakrishnan
Hard lobbying for more funds for doubling works resulted in the cut
Thiruvananthapuram: While the budget allocation for doubling of railway lines passing through the State has been doubled for 2007-2008 compared to the previous year, the allocation for the two sanctioned railway lines has been reduced in the budget presented by Union Minister for Railways Lalu Prasad.
The divisional railway authorities were expecting substantial outlay for the Angamali-Sabarimala and Tanur-Guruvayur railway lines that were cleared by the railways. But, Mr. Prasad gave only Rs.12.77 crores for the 146 km Angamali-Sabari rail line and 51 km Tanur-Guruvayur line.
The outlay for the two projects went down from Rs.13 crores in 2006-2007. A top railway official said hard lobbying by the State Government and the MPs from the State for more funds for the doubling works resulted in the reduction of outlay for the two railway lines.
"Much pressure from the State and the MPs would have resulted in greater outlay for the two projects. The Tanur-Guruvayur line can be completed in one year if funds are provided," he added.
The Rs.5 crore sanctioned in the last budget for the Tanur-Guruvayur railway line was "surrendered" as the alignment had not been fixed following opposition from some quarters. The Sabari rail line had also not made much headway as the proposed stretch passes through forest. The only solace was that the outlay for the doubling works in the State had gone up from Rs.72.50 crore in 2006-07 to Rs.150.97 crores in 2007-08.
It was estimated that doubling works alone needed Rs.2144.80 crores. The doubling of the congested and critical Ernakualm-Kayamkulam stretch via Kottayam and Alappuzha needed Rs. 300 crores. With this outlay, it would take several years for completing the doubling in the stretch. Only once the doubling was completed, the railways would be able to introduce more trains from other major cities to the State.
The authorities were also hoping funds for introducing Mainline Electric Multiple Units or Diesel EMU to take care of the needs of short distance commuters. One EMU can take care of the passengers in two to three passenger trains. "An outlay of Rs.30 crore to Rs.40 crore for EMU would have resulted in big relief to the express trains," he said.
The electrification of 87 km Thiruvananthapuram-Kanyakumari section was likely to be delayed, as even survey had not been taken up. The survey would take seven months. Sources said the railways would divert funds for the electrification of the 23 km Thrissur-Guruvayur line.