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Wow! Kerala semi high-speed rail line from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod to yield Rs 530 crore fuel savings

M Sarita Varma

Kerala's proposed semi-high-speed rail (SHSR), Silver Line, is estimated to ease road traffic by 7,500 vehicles per day, as per the latest study. The Rs 66,079-crore SHSR, expected to be complete by 2025, is to cut the 540-km travel time from the northern to the southern extreme of Kerala from 12 to four hours. The processing of LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) survey data to fine-tune the alignment of the rail corridor from Kochuveli in the south to Kasargod has started this week, according to Kerala Rail Development Corporation (KRDCL) MD V Ajith Kumar. Nearly 40% of the rail track will go parallel to the existing railway lines and for the rest that needs new alignment, part of the track will be elevated and part will be on ground. Once the ongoing processing of the LiDAR survey data is over, a detailed project report (DPR) and final location survey will be ready to take the project forward.

Silver Line is a JV between Indian Railways and KRDCL. Hyderabad-based Geokno India, which did the aerial survey for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, did the LiDar survey for Silver Line. "The latest study puts the passenger traffic for Silver Line at 74,000 per day. The train, travelling at 200 km per hour, would ease road traffic by as much as 7,500 vehicles per day," Ajith Kumar told FE. This implies savings of Rs 530-crore fuel costs at current prices.

One bogie could take 75 passengers and one train could have up to 15 bogies. In the long run, the plan envisages services at the rate of one train setting off at every five minutes. Another feature of Silver Line would be the maximisation of solar power utilisation. The fare for the longest journey - from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasargod - would be about Rs 1,450. At the same time, EM Sreedharan, principal advisor, (Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, had been sceptical about the economic feasibility of Kerala's ambitious SHSR, given the huge investment, land acquisition hassles and the rehabilitation issues.

The state government is aware of these challenges, but is keen on going ahead with the JV with Indian Railways, harnessing its infra-funding arm KIIFB. "It would be a game-changer for the state," says TM Thomas Isaac, Kerala's finance minister. Silver Line would yield about 50,000 jobs when complete. Even during the implementation stage, it could generate 11,000 jobs.