Semi-high-speed rail line gets a push

Govt. approaches JICA for ₹34,000-cr. loan for the project to be executed by State and Railways

The government has expedited steps for the 531.45-km semi-high-speed rail line from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod, found ‘feasible and economically viable’, by seeking aid from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and preparing a detailed project report (DPR) for the ₹56,443-crore project.

With the feasibility report, alignment, and revenue model from the Paris-based consulting firm Systra reaching the government for approval, Kerala Railway Development Corporation Limited (KRDCL) has commenced steps to go forward with the project.

The government has approached the country office of the JICA through the Union Department of Economic Affairs to secure ₹34,000 crore as loan for the project to be executed on cost-sharing basis by the State and Railways.

Systra, general consultant for the KRDCL, has suggested in the feasibility report that the State and Railways mobilise ₹10,000 crore each. The State, in addition, will have to bear the cost of acquiring 1,226 hectares in 11 districts.

The aim is to secure assistance from the JICA, the governmental agency that coordinates official development assistance for the government of Japan, through the DEA at least during 2021.

The feasibility report needs the approval of the KRDCL board, State government, and Railways. Official sources told The Hindu that steps had been taken to convene the KRDCL board next month so that the report could be forwarded to the government and the Railway Board.

DPR by October

The KRDCL may be ready with the DPR by October as the government announced in the budget that the work on the rail lines will begin in 2020. A fresh traffic study, field survey, soil investigation, and environment impact assessment will have to be carried out.

Tenders have been floated for carrying out the field survey by LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), a remote sensing survey method used to examine the earth surface to know terrain using helicopters. The bids for carrying out soil investigation will be floated soon.

As per the feasibility report, the internal rate of return (IRR) is 5.6% and 8.1% for 30 and 50 years respectively.

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