Acquisition of land for SilverLine unlikely to be problematic: K-Rail chief

The acquisition of land for the 530-km-long SilverLine semi-high-speed-rail project is unlikely to be problematic, said V. Ajith Kumar, managing director, Kerala Rail Development Corporation Limited (K-Rail), on Wednesday.

Mr. Kumar banked on the well-established Land Acquisition Act and took comfort from the fact that the acquisition of land on a much larger scale for the national highway had not led to serious complaints.

He was making a presentation on K-Rail at a webinar organised by the Kerala Shastra Sahithya Parishad (KSSP) marking its anniversary.

Mr. Kumar said that the Detailed Project Report (DPR) of SilverLine was an intellectual property of K-Rail and exempted from sharing under the Right to Information Act. "In another rail project, the Chief Information Commissioner and the Supreme Court have upheld the decision not to share the DPR," he said.

Mr. Kumar said that though the Environment Impact Assessment was not needed for railway projects on account of it being the least polluting transportation mode, K-Rail had done one and shared it in the public domain. A Social Impact Assessment and public hearings were also being held by district authorities.

The project, however, came in for considerable flak from the experts on the panel.

Alok Varma, retired chief engineer with the Indian Railways, Southern Region, remarked that the project lacked scientific objectivity as decisions were made first and then data was sought to support them.

He also questioned the decision to adopt standard gauge instead of broad gauge and wondered how any agency other than the Railway Board could unilaterally take such a decision. He said it was initially proposed as broad gauge.

He said the feasibility report was based on the alignment drawn up on topography data from Google Earth without any ground investigation. He questioned the logic of conducting a ground investigation after receiving the in-principle approval for the feasibility report from the Railway Board.

Mr. Varma also questioned the traffic projection of over 80,000 passengers for SilverLine with only one-seventh of the population of the proposed Mumbai-Ahmedabad corridor, which projected a traffic of just 35,000.

R.V.G. Menon, former president of KSSP, backed the arguments of Mr. Varma and questioned Mr. Kumar's claim that doubling of the existing line was almost complete. "Had a public discussion been held when the decision to adopt standard gauge for SilverLine was made, then the majority of train passengers would have opposed it," he said.

Mr. Menon said that doubling along with modernisation of signalling would have helped the frequency of services. The Railway has shown that it can enhance the speed of services of its choice when it so desires citing the example of Janshatabdi Express operating between Thiruvananthapuram and Ernakulam in three-and-a-half hours.

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Printable version | Sep 27, 2021 11:09:00 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/acquisition-of-land-for-silverline-unlikely-to-be-problematic-k-rail-chief/article35202981.ece

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