K-Rail MD’s rebuttal to revelations about SilverLine project feasibility study

Vishnu Kottangal

K-Rail MD Ajith Kumar V | Photo: Mathrubhumi

Thiruvananthapuram: In an exclusive interview with Mathrubhumi, V Ajith, MD of K-Rail spearheading Kerala government’s much-touted semi-high speed rail project, has rebutted the revelations about its feasibility study. Notably, the rebuttal comes in response to the criticisms made by Dr Alok Kumar Varma, the person who headed first feasibility study of semi-high speed rail project during his interview with Mathrubhumi News which was telecast the other day.

According to V Ajith, the criticisms made are based on information Dr Varma had during his short tenure. Ajith said that Varma was part of the study for just three months and was relieved in April 2019, at a time when neither Detailed Project Report (DPR) was readied nor feasibility was evaluated. “He was involved in the discussions based on preliminary information. I don’t know what connection he has with the project other than that,” Ajith told. The feasibility report to the Centre was submitted in August 2019 only, he added.

During the interview Ajith explained why LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) survey was conducted instead of on-site survey. He claimed that on-site survey would take months to complete, while technology driven LiDAR method can complete survey within days. To justify the rationale, he also cited two projects: Thiruvananthapuram Ring Road and Mumbai-Ahmadabad high speed rail corridor, where LiDAR survey was used. He said that this method offers an accuracy of 5 cm precision.

Commenting on the row over alignment, Ajith said that the present alignment was chosen from the four alternative alignments which were put forward considering the least harm they do to the environment. He said that the four alternatives will be pitched before both state government and the central government. The alignments will be assessed for environmental impact and benefit factor, he said. Ajith claimed that the best option was chosen.

To a question on why an alignment passing through flood affected region was chosen, Ajith said that the move was guided by Rapid Environment Study which considered climatic factors between a stretch of three months. However, he added that if there are any drawbacks, it will be rectified in the on-going year-long comprehensive study on climatic factors. Ajith said that instead of levelling the ground, pillars will be used to lay the lines. He claimed that more safety measures are ensured and it can even with stand floods.

Responding to the emerging protests over stone laying without social impact study, Ajith said that the process is done to ascertain who all will be affected. The stone laying based on the chosen alignment is to mark that stretch where people will be affected, he said. According to him, individuals can approach the agency involved in the process for raising their concerns and thereof resolve it. The land acquiring will only start after the completion of social impact study and stone laying is part of the process, he added.

Ajith shared the optimism that land acquisition will be happen in a prompt manner as people have acceptance of the cost and time benefits of the project. Meanwhile, Ajith claimed that rather than those who are likely to be affected with the project, some other individuals are protesting against the project.

Similarly, he said that the narrative that cost estimated will go above Rs 1 lakh crore is false. According to him, their estimation is based on old technology used and its export charges, but project plans to use new technology which is highly cost-effective.

Regarding the type of gauge, Ajith said that only standard gauge can be used for speed exceeding 200km/hr. He pointed out that nowhere in India broad gauge is used for high speed railway. Ajith said that standard gauge is a globally proven method for high speed rail transportation.

He pointed out that there is no point in comparing metro project with semi-high speed rail project. According to him, metro is for small distance and has speed limitations,while SilverLine is for long distance and high speed. He claimed that time and cost prospects are better for semi-high speed rail project.

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