State’s rail sector hopeful of a fair deal in Union Budget

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With 2024 being an election year, the State has high hopes in the Union Budget to be presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on February 1.

Unlike previous years, the State is looking for significant allotment for rail infrastructure rather than new trains. In the last Budget, Kerala had received a record outlay of ₹2,033 crore for rail development works, which was 87% higher than the grant allotted the previous year.

In the past few years, there has not been any announcements regarding new trains in the Budget. Instead, the rail divisions have been introducing trains based on passenger traffic and demand.

With the Southern Railway already announcing that the sectional speed of trains in Kerala will be increased to 110 kmph this year and subsequently to 130 kmph, Kerala hopes for a significant outlay for track upgrading and automatic signalling on key stretches, along with speeding up station redevelopment works.

With the newly introduced Vande Bharat services becoming a success in Kerala and the peak hour traffic remaining congested due to saturation of existing lines, the doubling work of the Ernakulam-Ambalapuzha stretch and the Thiruvananthapuram-Kanyakumari stretch needs to be fast-tracked. 

In addition, the wish list of the State also includes the proposed Nilambur to Nanjangud, Guruvayur-Thirunavaya, and the long pending Sabari rail lines. It also includes the third and fourth line between Ernakulam and Shoranur.

Though the State has been pushing hard for the SilverLine semi-high-speed rail project, it is unlikely to figure in the Budget considering the political stakes in the project.  Although the State has been pushing for the Sabari rail project, which is expected to bring the eastern parts of Kerala on the rail map, the Railway seem to be toying with the Chengannur-Pampa transit route. T

Further, Nemom and Kochu Veli terminal development has to be fast-tracked for which more funds have to be earmarked, including for the second phase works. Chengannur, Thrissur, Kozhikode, Varkala, and Thiruvananthapuram stations, which have been identified for major upgrade under the Amrit Bharat Station Scheme, are hoping for a fair share in the Budget.

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