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K-Rail project totally against interests of Kerala: Sreedharan

Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 23 (IANS) Metroman E. Sreedharan on Tuesday said the proposed K-Rail (Silver Line) project, as conceived, is totally against the interests of the state.

A statement issued here by the veteran engineer, presently a BJP leader who contested the April 6 assembly polls and lost by a whisker, said Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had recently accused the opposition parties (UDF and BJP) of blocking developmental work in the state with particular reference to the Silver Line project. CPI-M leader Kodiyeri Balakrishanan had also echoed the same charges.

"The alignment chosen is flawed. From Tirur to Kasargod it is running parallel to the existing railway line. The Railways has opposed this alignment as it would interfere with the future quadrupling of this stretch. 140 km runs through paddy fields, which are not stable for high speeds."

He said to prevent tresspassing high walls will have to be constructed on either side of the tracks, blocking free passage and drainage.

"In effect, an equivalent of a China Wall will divide Kerala from North to South. This is an idiotic decision. The Silver Line should be away from the existing line, either elevated or underground. Nowhere in the world high speed or semi-high speed lines are planned at ground level."

He stated that the technical parameters of the Silver Line have not been approved by the Railways, particularly the gauge. The Railways want this line to function as the 3rd and 4th lines, to complement the present line capacity. This is not now possible with standard gauge.

"RO-RO services have been planned on the Silver Line during nights to increase revenue. This is just not practical as night hours are needed for maintenance. No final location survey has been done on the ground for the Silver Line. Finalizing a railway alignment based on Google maps or Lidar survey is not acceptable particularly when land acquisition in being pursued with undue haste. When the actual final location survey is done there will be a lot of changes and half the land acquisition will go waste."

He added that no traffic survey, no geotechnical survey, no environmental study and no social impact study have been conducted.

The DPR prepared is mostly based on assumptions and hypothesis. The cost estimates, traffic projections and economics of the line are not reliable. The contents of the DPR are not available in the public domain.

"The cost estimate is brutally suppressed, on the basis that the line is at a grade. The public will not agree for a High Speed Line to be located at grade. This is the biggest objection to the project not only from the public, but from Railway experts, environmentalists and ecology considerations."

On the possible displacements, he said at a rough estimate more than 20,000 families will have to be relocated.

"According to my estimate, the Silver Line will cost Rs 75,000 cr at present and more than Rs 1,10,000 cr on completion. My estimate is based on the last accepted rates of the Delhi Rapid Rail Transit (RRTS) which has a maximum speed of 180 kmph."

He brushed aside the claim that the Silver Line will be completed by 2025, saying it shows how ignorant the project agency is.

"Even the best executing agency in the country, like DMRC will take 8 to 10 years for completing such a project."

This is one of Vijayan's pet projects which if completed will set up a 529.45 km corridor connecting Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod.

A semi high speed train will be able to travel this stretch in 4 hours at an operational speed of 200 km per hour.

These trains will cover the busy Thiruvananthapuram-Ernakulam stretch in 90 minutes, which at present takes more than four hours.

The Silver Line will be running parallel to the existing railway line from Kasaragod to Tirur, while an alternative green-field alignment has been chosen for the Tirur- Thiruvananthapuram stretch.

Vijayan had mooted this project in his first term (2016-21). It is presently lying with the Centre.