The Pinarayi Vijayan government of Kerala has decided to push ahead with the K-Rail semi-high-speed rail project despite opposition from the Congress-led United Democratic Front and some non-governmental organizations.
The Rs 64,000 cr project is one of the most ambitious taken by any Kerala state government in recent years, and aims to reduce the north-south traveling time in Kerala from around 18 hours by road at present to 4 hours.
In its latest move, the government has published gazette notifications for conducting land surveys in five out of the 11 districts in which land acquisition will take place.
The notification asks landowners to facilitate government officials who come for the survey, and places the onus on landowners to remove any obstruction to the survey, such as fences and trees.
A total of 1,226 hectares of land will acquired for the project in 11 districts, mostly in 2022.
The government has already put out the path alignment on the website of K-Rail corporation. Citizens can head over to the website and zoom in using the map tool to find out if their land falls in the project area.
The current survey is of a preliminary nature. A follow-on survey will precisely earmark the land which will be acquired for the project. Land owners are expected to be compensated at market rates.
The project is scheduled to be completed by late 2024 or early 2025, and could have far-reaching impact on Kerala’s economy.
Kerala is uniquely suited for rail transport as it stretches along a longitudinal axis, and a single line will be able to cater to 80% of the inhabitants of the state.
The K-Rail project is classified as ‘semi high-speed’ as trains will travel at 200 km/hour. Only systems that support a speed of 250 km/h are classified as high speed.
Nevertheless, the 530-km long track being laid as part of K-Rail will support up to 250 km/h, according to the project’s website.
The service will have 11 stops on its way from Thiruvanathapuram to Kasargode, and will charge Rs 2.75 per km as its regular fare.
In other words, the regular fare for traveling from the state capital of Thiruvananthapuram to Kochi will be around Rs 540. This is about twice as much as what a bus traveler has to shell out at present, but yearly bus-fare increases could narrow that gap considerably by the time the trains start plying.
Moreover, daytime travel by bus along this route takes around 7-8 hours, while K-Rail will take only around 1 hour and 25 minutes.
The project will have nearly 12 km of tunnels and 13 km of bridges. The track will first see 9-coach trains, but the number of cars will be increased to 15 as usage increases.
Most of the opposition has come from landowners whose land will be acquired for the project, and from some environmental activists.