Pinarayi firm on SilverLine project

‘529.45 km semi-high speed rail is a game changer for the State’

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday reiterated that the government was for the 529.45 km semi-high speed rail SilverLine from Kochuveli to Kasaragod and that the people will be taken into confidence while executing the project.

The State needs the SilverLine and to reduce the travel time between the North and South of the State. It will be a game-changer in State’s infrastructure growth as well as economic development, the Chief Minister said while replying to Mons Joseph of Kerala Congress (J) and others in the Assembly on Thursday who sought leave for an adjournment motion to drop the SilverLine and to augment the existing railway network.

“We are here not to inconvenience the people. But,to help the people. The impact will be minimal and the rehabilitation of those being displaced will be taken care. The Suburban Rail is not feasible. The High Speed Rail Corridor is costly and will take time”, he said.

The Cabinet has already given its approval to the Detailed Project Report (DPR), submitted by the implementing agency Kerala Rail Development Corporation Limited (K-Rail), a joint venture of the Indian Railways and the State government. The DPR is under Centre’s scrutiny, the Chief Minister said.

The project has received in-principle approval of the Centre in December 2017, he said while appealing to the Opposition not to fall to the campaign launched by vested interests to topple the project. Only 9,314 buildings will be affected by Silverline and 88 km of the 115 km passing through paddy fields will be elevated.

SilverLine will be running parallel to the existing railway line from Kasaragod to Tirur (220 km), he said while a green-field alignment has been chosen for Tirur- Kochuveli stretch. International financial institutions are to be approached as the cost sharing project between State and railways is estimated at ₹63,941 crore.

Earlier, Mr. Mons Joseph said massive displacement will occur due to SilverLine and the government should take a practical approach. “We are not against the development projects. Metroman E. Sreedharan has said 25,000 to 30,000 families will be hit and the cost will go up to ₹1.20 lakh crore. The government should drop it and go for augmenting the existing network with modern technology,” he added.

Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said Paris-based consultant Systra that prepared the DPR had been black-listed. The project is being used to siphon funds and as a cover for corruption, he said. The government should convene an all party meeting and should not go ahead with land acquisition.

Land acquisition for the project will be taken up only after getting the final nod from the Centre, Minister for Public Works and Railways G. Sudhakaran said.

Deputy Leader of Opposition M. K. Muneer said Kerala will fall into debt trap if it is executed and pointed out that the technology suggested is outdated and cannot carry goods traffic. Following the Chief Minister’s reply, the Deputy Speaker, V. Sasi denied permission and the Opposition walked out in protest.

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