Stress laid on cost-effective travel by trains and dedicated corridor through waterways

With the Centre reportedly soft-pedalling on according sanction for the ₹63,000-crore SilverLine semi-high-speed railway project, experts are batting for alternatives in the form of faster but cost-effective travel by trains and a dedicated corridor through the plenteous but under-utilised coastal and inland waterways of the State.

Even as the future of SilverLine is uncertain, there is tremendous scope to speed up movement of trains, if need be, by laying third track in areas such as Ernakulam-Shoranur and Thiruvananthapuram-Kayamkulam, where speed is limited despite the availability of a pair of tracks. This is because trains will continue to be the fastest, economical and sustainable mass rapid transport system (MRTS). One can work wonders through minimal land acquisition and augmenting of infrastructure at stations. But the number of stops of express and premium trains must be reduced, said former NATPAC director B.G. Sreedevi, who is now project director-cum-top-level expert at WAPCOS Limited, a Central government undertaking.

Waterway corridor

“A hydrofoil service, like the one that was mooted a decade ago in between Kochi and Kozhikode, will ensure high-speed and stress-free commute through the under-utilised waterways. The government could think of operating point-to-point services linking other districts as well, since inland and coastal waterways can be made operable from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod. Dual option vessels can operate through the two waterway corridors,” she said, adding that a regular helicopter service by private players would considerably help those from the Malabar region to reach Thiruvananthapuram and back the same day.

Interestingly, a Kochi-Kozhikode hydrofoil service that was aimed at providing high-speed waterway connectivity between the two cities and later to Thiruvananthapuram hit a dead end after a pair of Russian hyrdofoil vessels (each capable of carrying 146 passengers) that were shipped to Kochi in July 2016 failed to get safety certificate from the Indian Register of Shipping (IRS).

Informed sources said the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) and Kerala Waterways Infrastructure Limited (KWIL) ought to get their act together to speed up development of the waterway corridor which could ferry both passengers and bulk cargo.

Third track

Passenger associations and railway officials have for long been demanding the introduction of automatic signalling system, a cost-effective method to usher in efficiency in train service and to do away with detentions for crossing over. Of late, they have been clamouring for a better option — laying of third track, wherein the speed of trains can double the existing speed. This is especially true of the Ernakulam-Shoranur corridor, where the utility of the 107-km double track is over 125%.

Rajendra Prasad Jingar, Chief Administrative Officer of the Railways’ construction wing (Ernakulam), said an ongoing survey to lay third track in the Ernakulam-Shoranur corridor was expected to get over by October, following which its detailed project report (DPR) would be sent to the Railway Board by December. “The board will scrutinise it and take a decision. Its alignment will be fixed based on the survey,” he added.

It had been reported that the number of stops in the proposed third track corridor whose cost is estimated at over ₹5,000 crore could be limited to six, since it would cater for express and goods trains.

Source : thehindu