Tharoor said that the Union Budget announcement on the launch of 400 Vande Bharat train services in three years could be an alternative for the multi-crore semi-high speed initiative.

File photo of Shashi TharoorFile photo: PTI
news Politics Wednesday, February 02, 2022 - 14:56

Senior Congress leader and Member of Parliament (MP), Shashi Tharoor, who had earlier courted controversy for adopting a supportive stand for the LDF government's mammoth Silver Line rail corridor project in Kerala, has opined that the Union Budget announcement on the launch of 400 Vande Bharat train services in three years could be an alternative for the multi-crore semi-high speed initiative.

The Thiruvananthapuram MP tweeted that one interesting element for Kerala in the Union Budget 2022 was the announcement of 400 new Vande Bharat trains, which can travel at 180 kmph. Whether the Union and the state government could see the Vande Bharat trains as a "cheaper and more energy-efficient substitute" for the Silver Line? he asked.

He also said it could address Chief Minister's Pinarayi Vijayan's concern for speedy train travel to promote development and alleviate the concerns of his own party, Congress's concerns about land acquisition and environmental impact. "Bringing #VandeBharat trains to Kerala could address @vijayanpinarayi's concern for speedy train travel to promote development, & alleviate @INCKerala 's concerns about land acquisition & environmental impact. GOI & GOK should discuss a win-win outcome in the interests of the state (sic)," Tharoor further tweeted.

He later told reporters that he was not sure whether the Budget announcement of the Vande Bharat train services would materialise, but the state and central governments should discuss its possibilities and thus end the ongoing controversy regarding the project. Pointing out that the Union government's nod for the Silver Line project was still pending, Tharoor also said not controversy but development is what everyone needed for the state.

Vijayan on Tuesday, February 1, slammed the Union government for not including in the Union Budget the southern state's proposal for building the semi-high speed railway line for which his government has already initiated steps for acquiring land. State Finance Minister KN Balagopal also criticised the Union government for not considering the state's demand for budgetary allocation for the project. He said the state government initiated the project with a hope that the Union government will provide necessary support to transform the transport system of the state as per the needs of modern times. However, the opposition Congress and the BJP in the state welcomed the Union government's decision and urged the state government to withdraw from the project citing the budget announcement of the launching of 400 Vande Bharat train services in three years. Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly, VD Satheesan, urged the state government to withdraw from the SilverLine project as the Union government's semi-high speed Vande Bharat train services will connect India's every corner including Kerala.

He said the Vande Bharat project to be implemented by the Indian Railway has features similar to the SilverLine project of the state government and the operational speed of the Vande Bharat train is also 160 to 180 km/hr. The SilverLine project, which is expected to reduce travel time from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod to around four hours, is being opposed by the opposition Congress-led UDF, which has been alleging that it was "unscientific and impractical" and will put a huge financial burden on the state.

The 540-kilometre stretch from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod would be developed by K-Rail, a joint venture of the Kerala government and the Railway Ministry for developing railway infrastructure in the southern state. Starting from the state capital, SilverLine trains will have stoppages at Kollam, Chengannur, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Tirur, Kozhikode and Kannur before reaching Kasaragod.

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