A expansion engine for Kerala’s financial system – The New Indian Specific

Express News Service

The detailed project report for SilverLine was prepared based on a detailed study of various aspects like geography and terrain of the state, traffic surveys, LiDAR surveys, geo-technical survey, environment impact assessment studies etc in a coherent way.

An article by Alok Kumar Verma, which appeared in TNIE on April 18, tries to mislead readers by stating that the required studies were not conducted for the final feasibility report whereas the project has crossed the feasibility stage and completed the DPR stage too.

Studies conducted for DPR need to be reviewed rather than the feasibility report. DPR preparation is the stage wherein detailed studies are conducted to take the project forward after obtaining an in-principle approval on the basis of the feasibility report.

The project was approached in a structured way to minimize cost. A pre-feasibility report was submitted in December 2017. Then feasibility studies were conducted by 2018 on getting the green light from Railways. The project moved forward to the DPR after feasibility report was submitted in August 2019. The project also received the in-principle approval, which signifies the conceptual alignment of the Railways with the proposal.

The SilverLine project is conceived under the co-operative federalism model for rail development wherein the Center and state governments join hands to promote infrastructure development as per the aspirations of the people of the state.This is a model wherein the state and the Center share their equity in a 51:49 ratio. Many other states designed projects in this model and they are under various stages of implementation.

It is also not correct to say that the Ministry of Railways would bear most of the cost and pocket profit if the line is built in broad gauge. The financial contribution of the Railways in projects proposed by state governments like Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana will vouch for this.

Indian broad gauge, which is broader than the standard gauge, is not the ideal one for a high-speed network. Standard gauge is considered to be the optimal gauge for high speed trains. Indian broad gauge is yet to develop the standards and codes to run trains beyond 160kmph.

A project of this size cannot be carried on an experimental basis. Modern cost-effective technical solutions have been proposed for reinforced embankments, and ground improvement at weak soil locations for durable structures with longer life with high precision of track geometry and stability. High-speed trains are running over similar embankments in Japan and Europe.

SilverLine is proposed as a speedy transportation solution for inter-district travel rather than just a rail system. It is meant for people who take the bus or drive cars to travel from one district to another. Integration with existing railways happens through station integration rather than track integration. It has to be seen from the perspective of a traveler than a technocrat.

Alok Verma was a deputy project director of the Systra team that worked on the feasibility report of the project. He worked for three months from 04/12/2018 to 20/03/2019. Major studies for the project happened after that and guessing the project based on three months’ experience is futile.

Neither Systra nor KRDCL accepted the first draft of the report he submitted for sound reasons. Alok Verma was one of the 18 experts of Systra and has never worked in Kerala prior to his three-month stint. He has neither the knowledge of the state’s geography and topography nor its cultural and travel requirements. This is evident from the suggestions of Ernakulam station at Subhash Park, Kumbalangi or Thanthonnithuruthu in the draft report.

(The author is a retired principal chief engineer, Southern Railway, and is currently the project director of the General Consultant Systra for the KRDCL projects)

Studies for DPR need to be reviewed
Studies conducted for DPR need to be reviewed rather than the feasibility report. DPR preparation is the stage wherein detailed studies are conducted to take the project forward after obtaining an in-principle approval on the basis of the feasibility report.

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