Railway Minister Piyush Goyal has slammed the Kerala government over its "lack of cooperation" on a line that will bring the shrine city of Sabarimala on the rail network. He said that the delay has increased the project cost by 512 per cent.
Currently, there is no direct railway line connecting other towns to Sabarimala. The nearest railway stations are at Kottayam, Thiruvalla and Chengannur, which are about 90 kilometres from Sabarimala.
Piyush Goyal said in a letter to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan that the "lack of cooperation" on the part of the state government on the Angamali-Sabarimala 111-km line project has "badly delayed its execution".
This project was included in Railway Budget 1997-98 at a cost of Rs 550 crore, against which, part estimate for long lead items amounting to Rs 517.70 crore, including Rs 58.76 crore as the land cost of the entire project, was sanctioned in May, 2006.
"Consequently, in this project, work on Angamali-Kaladi (7 km) and long lead works on Kaladi-Perumbavoor (10 km) have been taken up. However, further works on this project could not be taken forward due to protests by local people against land acquisition and fixing of alignment of the line, court cases filed against the project and non-cooperation from the state government of Kerala.
"This has badly delayed the execution of the project and as a result, project cost has increased exponentially from Rs 550 crore in 1997 to Rs 1,566 crore in 2017," he said.
He also said that as taking forward of this project showing 512 per cent increase in project cost solely with railway funds was not possible, the Centre requested the state in three letters in 2011 and 2012 to share at least 50 per cent cost of the project.
In 2015, the government of Kerala agreed to share 50 per cent cost of the project.
"Unfortunately, within a year, the state government in 2016 withdrew their own consent to share 50% cost of the project. This sudden change in policy was surprising and against the interest of developing Railways in Kerala, and brought into question the state government's commitment to this important project," Goyal said.
Again in 2017, a request was made to the state government to cooperate, Goyal said, adding that due to their "inaction" in September 2019, the work was kept in "abeyance" on the project.
"...it is reiterated that it is not feasible for Railways in taking the project forward solely with Railway funds, and therefore, state government of Kerala is again requested to share in the development of Railway network in the state. This will help Railways to provide the much required rail link for the travelling needs of local people and pilgrims," he said.