K-Rail Hosts SilverLine Project Roundtable Amid Protests

The discussion brought together three panelists supporting the ambitious plan of the FDL-led government and one expert opposing its implementation.

The Kerala Rail Development Corporation, on behalf of the state government, on Thursday, April 28, organized a roundtable in Thiruvananthapuram on the proposed SilverLine Semi-High Speed ​​Rail Corridor. The debate was an attempt to provide a platform to air different views on the multi-crore project, even as the process of laying survey stones sparked intense protest in Muzhappilangad in Kannur district.

The discussion, with three panelists supporting the ambitious plan of the Left Democratic Front (LDF)-led government and an expert opposing its implementation, took place at a hotel in the state capital amid many criticisms that the authorities were not listening to misfortunes. ordinary people and the opinions of critics.

Kuncheria P Isaac, former vice-chancellor of Kerala Technical University, kicked off the debate by strongly supporting the semi-high speed rail corridor, saying better transport facilities including faster trains and highways were a necessity for the southern state. He noted that most people choose to travel odd hours by road to avoid traffic, which was one of the reasons for the increase in road accidents in the state. “Although SilverLine, worth Rs 64,000 crore, is not financially viable immediately, it is something that could boost the economy of the state over a period of time. If we could build the Idukki Dam and have it still standing, we can do that too,” the expert added.

Echoing similar views, SN Raghuchandran Nair, President of the Trivandrum Chamber of Commerce, said it was high time the state changed its mind on the development of public transport systems. “Now we are forced to spend our precious time on the road. Fuel prices are also quite high. Projects like SilverLine should be implemented to find solutions to the traffic problems the state is facing,” said he declared. Such projects would help attract more business ventures to the state and rejuvenate the tourism sector, Nair added.

However, he pointed out that it was inappropriate to plant survey stones as part of the project’s social impact assessment without the consent of the people. “All public concerns and doubts must be addressed and cleared up before its implementation,” Nair said.

Subodh Jain, a retired member of engineering, who also spoke in favor of the project, said that it was not possible to implement the proposed project in the large gauge format. Observing that something needs to be done regarding Kerala’s transport needs, he said one very encouraging thing is that everyone agrees that doing nothing is not an option. The main aim of the project should be to wean people off private mode of transport like cars, he added.

However, RVG Menon, a leading environmental scientist and critical reviewer of the SilverLine project, expressed strong reservations about the multi-crore project, saying that doubling the existing railway lines and upgrading the signaling system was the best possible alternatives. While looking from people’s perspective, the proposed SilverLine has several issues, he said. “The main problem is that it is planned in standard gauge. There are semi-high speed trains running on wide gauge lines in the country. Why can’t we experience faster trains in our state? ” He asked.

The expert, who was the only person included in the roundtable opposing the project, also sought to find out who had decided to choose standard gauge instead of wide gauge in the state and on what parameters such a decision had been taken. Accusing the state government and the K-Rail Corporation of depending on Japanese technology for the project, he said if indigenous trains and technology had been used, it would have generated more jobs and boosted the economy. local. Menon also criticized the conduct of the debate after the government announced that the project would be implemented no matter what.

Previously, the roundtable had run into controversy, with two prominent panelists withdrawing, citing the lack of clarity in the invitations issued to them. Alok Kumar Verma, a retired chief bridge engineer who prepared the preliminary feasibility report for the SilverLine aka K-Rail project but later raised objections, and environmentalist Sridhar Radhakarishnan announced their withdrawal from the discussion of two o’clock.

They were inducted into the panel among those who spoke out against the initiative. The development followed the removal of social observer Joseph C Mathew, a known critic of the state’s ruling LDF government, from the panel by organizers.

Meanwhile, residents, including women, along with congressional opposition activists staged a protest outside the police cruiser when they attempted to arrest a homeowner for opposing the laying survey stone in his property in Kannur. Although K-Rail officials managed to install the stones amid the protests under police escort, the home owner later removed them and said the family had no advance information about the procedure.

Last week, the process of laying survey stones for the project resumed after a nearly month-long hiatus, sparking a new round of clashes between residents and anti-SilverLine activists with police across the country. ‘State. The SilverLine rail corridor, planned to cover a 530 kilometer stretch from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod, is estimated at around Rs 64,000 crore. The project aims to facilitate transportation throughout North-South Kerala and reduce travel time to less than four hours from 12-14 hours currently.

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