Logistics

DMRC deems proposed high-speed railway corridor in Kerala viable

Vinson Kurian Thiruvananthapuram | Updated on January 17, 2018 Published on July 09, 2016

A proposed High Speed Railway (HSR) project in Kerala will run along a north-south alignment of 430 km linking Thiruvananthapuram and Kannur.

The original feasibility report had proposed a corridor reaching up to Kasaragod, says a detailed project report (DPR) prepared by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC).

TRAFFIC PROJECTIONS

On further examination during the course of traffic surveys, it was revealed that traffic projections beyond Kannur are not very encouraging.

But it is possible to extend HSR to Mangaluru in Karnataka in the next phase, the DPR observes.

The proposed corridor starts at Thiruvanthapuram and ends at Kannur with nine stations.

Trains will run at a maximum speed of 300 km/hr and an average speed of 250 km/hr.

The HSR line has nine stations at Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Chengannur, Kottayam, Kochi, Thrissur, Valancherry, Kozhikode and Kannur.

Provision has been kept for one more future station at Nedumbassery, which hosts the Cochin International Airport.

TRAVEL TIME

The alignment is about four to eight km east of the existing railway line avoiding heavily built up areas.

Of the 430 km, 105 km will be underground in tunnels, 190 km elevated on viaducts, and the rest at grade/cut and cover.

The stations have been located in such a way that they can be easily connected to existing railway stations and bus stations by feeder bus services to establish a truly integrated transport system.

The travel time from Thiruvananthapuram to Kollam will be 20 minutes; Kochi 45 minutes; Kozhikode 90 minutes; and Kannur, two hours. Normal travel time by train currently is 12 hours.

The project is financially self-sustaining and no government support or subsidies will be needed at any time for operating the system, the DPR notes.

The project is expected to cost Rs 1,27,849 crore (excluding state taxes) on completion.

GOVERNMENT PROJECT

The financial rate of return has been assessed as 4.67 per cent and the economic rate of return, 14.02 per cent.

This effectually means the investment will come back to the society in a period of eight years.

HSR lines are not generally financially viable. Therefore, BOT or PPP models are not recommended here.

The proposed project may be implemented fully as a Government initiative.

The DPR recalls that Indian Railway has come out with a new policy of state governments sharing the cost of railway projects which they are keen to take up.

The HSR project should therefore be taken up as an extension of the same policy.

Konkan Railway is a shining example of how a huge railway project can be implemented and operated by a special purpose vehicle (SPV).

JAPANESE FUNDS

A similar strategy is recommended for this HSR project, the DPR says.

Cost of the land has to be equally shared. The state government’s burden on the project will be Rs 17,272 crore (inclusive of land cost and state taxes).

It may raise part of this amount by domestic borrowings. The same Japanese technology and JICA funding on terms similar to what have been accepted for the Mumbai-Ahmadabad line may be adopted here.

The soft loan features of JICA funding such as low interest rates (0.30 per cent per year), a 10-year moratorium period, and a long tenure of 40 years will enable the SPV to be formed for the purpose to be financially self-supporting.

In short, the SPV will not have any difficulty to service and pay back the loans taken from JICA.

If this model is followed, work can commence immediately after the project is approved by the two governments and completed within a period of nine years.

It is recommended the headquarters of the SPV is located at Thiruvananthapuram.

Published on July 09, 2016
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