Saturday, December 31, 2011

Proposed high-speed rail corridor to boost Kerala’s economy: Sreedharan

Delhi Metro Corporation Ltd. (DMCL) Managing Director E. Sreedharan has said that the proposed high-speed rail corridor project linking the entire stretch from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod will give a boost to the State’s economy.

In his speech after accepting the 14th A.K. Nair Memorial Award instituted by the North Malabar Chamber of Commerce (NMCC) and the A.K. Nair Memorial Endowment Committee (AKNMEC) here on Thursday, Mr. Sreedharan said that the high-speed rail corridor project would have a carrying capacity of 15,000 people per hour. If the same number of people had to be carried on a road system, the State would require a motorway with a width of 70 to 80 metres, he said adding that such a road was impossible in a State like Kerala where availability of land was a problem. For the proposed 580 km-long rail corridor project with an estimated cost of Rs. 1 lakh crore (one lakh crore), land acquisition was not going to be a formidable problem, he said adding that the DMCL, which had been engaged by the State government to carry out a feasibility study of the project had commenced the work to prepare a detailed project report.

Terming the high-speed rail system as the safest mode of transportation, Mr. Sreedharan said that the proposed high-speed train could cover the 580 km-stretch in a matter of two hours. As the Japanese were the pioneers of the high-speed rail technology, the State could bring in the Japanese technology, he said adding that it was also possible for the project to obtain up to 85 per cent of project cost as linked loan from Japan. The State’s burden would be to mobilise Rs. 10,000 crore for the project, he pointed out.

Mr. Sreedharan said that the Public Investment Board meeting of the Kochi Metro project would be held soon and then the project would be submitted to the Central government. The DMCL, which has been entrusted to implement the project, was considering a proposal for bringing South Korean meglev (magnetic levitation) technology for the Kochi Metro. He said that he had requested the State government to develop the Kochi metro on this technology which requires no rails and allows soft and smooth riding with no vibration. The technology would allow a reduction in the capital cost by 50 per cent and operational cost by 15 to 20 per cent. Since the proposed Kochi Metro was an elevated metro, this technology would also reduce the requirement of land, he added.

The DMCL had also submitted a proposal to the State government a few years ago for introducing suburban train services for the entire State. At that time the prospect of such a service was not bright as track doubling was not over and electrification was incomplete. Now that that the doubling work was almost over and electrification of railway line was about to be extended, it was the most appropriate time to introduce the mainline electrical multiple unit (MEMU) suburban service in the State, he noted. As MEMU system did not require operation of many trains, it was for the State government to come forward for getting the system introduced as a public-private partnership scheme, he stated.

Referring to the proposed Thalassery-Mysore railway line, Mr. Sreedharan said that he was not very sure if the project would help Karanataka and the Malabar region. He said the detailed project report being prepared now would shed more light on the feasibility of the project.

Explaining his experiences as the architect of the 760 km-long Konkan Railway and the Delhi Metro, he said that while the greatest challenge involved in the implementation of the former project was the raising of finances from the market at a time when the market was in a topsy-turvy condition, funds were not the constraints for the latter thanks to the Japanese aid. The Konkan Railway could be completed in an incredibly short period of seven years, while the first two phases of the Delhi Metro could be completed in time and comfortably within the budget, he said adding that the DMCL had now taken up the third phase of the Delhi Metro which was estimated to cost Rs. 40,000 crore.

Delhi Metro was also a financial success as the DMCL was now paying back the loan amount and able to generate sufficient operational profit. He said that the successful implementation of the two projects was the result of the team work of competent technical personnel, he said.

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