Kerala Kaumudi Online
Thursday, 21 January 2021 5.19 AM IST

Sabari rail line coming to life


The news that the Angamaly-Erumeli Sabari railway line project, which came to a halt with the completion of just seven kilometers, is being revived is a source of joy not only for Kerala but also for those from outside the state. The cost of the project, which was included in the railway budget 22 years ago, was estimated at Rs 517 crore. It lay dormant as obstacles arose to move the project forward. Despite the constant reminder of the project during each year's railway budget, the project failed to move any step forward. The project, which would have facilitated travel to Erumeli for lakhs of Ayyappa devotees from outside the state, has been neglected for more than two decades. This inaction and neglect continued to increase the cost of construction each year. As per the latest estimates, it is Rs 2815 crore. According to the new policy of the Railways, half of the cost of any railway line development project will be borne by the concerned state. Accordingly, the Sabari railway line will get a new lease of life with the state government expressing its willingness to bear half of the construction cost of `1407 crore. The Cabinet has already decided to transfer the required funds for the Sabari project through KIIFB, which was set up to carry out infrastructure development projects. It is expected that the approval of the Railways will be obtained once the technical and administrative procedures are completed. At the same time, efforts should be made to include the Sabari railway line in the new union budget.

Kerala was not only considering the Sabarimala pilgrims while raising its voice for the Sabari rail line. This new rail line will lead to comprehensive development in Central Kerala. Apart from Ernakulam district, the Sabari rail line, which passes through Kottayam, Idukki and Pathanamthitta districts, will make these areas part of a new development map. In the future, the railway from Erumeli can be extended to Punalur and from there to Tamil Nadu. The works of the 111-km Angamaly-Erumeli rail line is expected to be completed within five years once it is taken over again. The success of the project depends on the timely completion of land acquisition matters. It should not be forgotten that certain people with vested interests had taken a stand against the project. One of the major problems faced by the state when it comes to rail development is and acquisition. If the Sabari rail line is to be completed on time, the government should pay special attention to this.

Rail development in the state has not made much progress for a long time. The wait for new routes has been going on for decades. Several promising big projects including the suburban service, the Silver Line project and the metro project are yet to become realities. Protests have already erupted against the Silver Line project which aims to cover about 529.45 km between Thiruvananthapuram and Kasaragod in just four hours. The state is still getting ignored when it comes to issues such as track doubling, electrification, new trains, station modernization and augmentation of facilities. Even projects that can be undertaken without large investment are not given enough consideration. During the COVID pandemic, the cancellation of travel facilities was a major setback for commuters. The non-resumption of passenger services have affected greatly affected ordinary passengers.

There are a number of rail development projects that were not taken over despite getting included in the budgets. While the Angamaly-Erumeli project is getting revived, the long-awaited Guruvayur-Kuttipuram rail line also lies ahead. The state government should see the new policy of the railways as a new possibility to undertake such projects. The importance of accelerating the development of railways along with the development of roads should be realized. The moves for that must be accelerated.

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