Sabarimala rail link faces land acquisition hurdles

: The prospects of Sabarimala making it to the railway map of the country in the near future are getting dim with several hurdles coming in the way of the two-decade-old proposal.

Delay in land acquisition, paltry allocation in Railway budgets and Kerala’s reluctance to share half the project cost as demanded by Railways have delayed the ambitious project over the last two decades.

The estimate of the 120-km proposed railway line, which was Rs.550 crore in 2005 and revised to Rs. 1,234 crore later, has now gone up to Rs. 1,566 crore, as per the revised estimate subemitted to the Railway Board in November 2011.

The Angamaly-Sabarimala railway project was allocated only Rs. 5 crore in the 2015-16 Railway Budget and Railways are putting pressure on the State to share 50 per cent of the cost for the project that has been found not remunerative.

It has been decided to terminate the service at Erumely instead of Azhutha. The hurdles in constructing 11 tunnels between Erumely and Azhutha, a forest area, and the report stating that there would be no added advantage in laying the line to Azhutha prompted Railways to change the alignment.

Railways sources said boundary stones had been laid every 50 metre for 70 km. The stones had been laid in Ernakulam and Idukki districts and up to Pala in Kottayam district. The alignment between Anthinadu and Erumely was revised, but the tender called for final survey had not been awarded.

Of the 515 hectares required, 21.64 hectares from Ernakulam district has been handed over to Railways under a fast-track scheme. In Kottayam district, steps to acquire 217.1 hectares had to be stopped due to opposition by the local people. The land acquisition offices in Muvattupuzha, Perumbavoor and Pala had been closed down. The first and second reaches had been completed up to the Periyar bridge and the station building and platform had been completed at Kalady.