Semi-high-speed rail is getting closer to being a reality, and land acquisition will begin shortly.

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Semi-high-speed rail
Semi-high-speed rail | Image Copyright - Respective Authority
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KERALA (Metro Rail News): The ambitious Silverline, the Semi high-speed rail project described as the game-changer in Kerala’s infrastructure as well as economic growth, has moved an inch closer to reality with Railway Ministry and NITI Aayog – the government’s highest think tank – providing approval to the project. The project has obtained recommendations from organisations relevant, including the Department of Expenditure under the Ministry of Finance.

The proposal is currently being considered by the Union Finance Ministry’s Department of Economic Affairs, which will transmit it to international institutions such as Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Asian Development Bank, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and German Development Bank (KfW).

Foreign banks would need the consent of the Department of Economic Affairs to fund the project, which is projected to cost Rs 63,941 crore. V Ajith Kumar, managing director of Kerala Rail Development Corporation Limited (K-Rail), a joint venture of the Indian Railways and the state government, told TNIE that “in order to obtain the foreign financing, around 70-80 percent of the land designated for the project must be acquired.” “Once the new cabinet is constituted, the state administration will expedite land acquisitions that require cabinet approval,” he stated.

A total of 1,383 hectares of land must be purchased for the project, which would cost around Rs 13,000 crore. Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) and Housing and Urban Development Corporation Ltd (Hudco) have made bids for the project of Rs3,000 crore and Rs 2,100 crore, respectively. As a result, K-Rail is hopeful of obtaining the land using these money in addition to international bank loans. The state administration expects to raise around Rs33,000 crore from overseas banks.

“The project was delayed by three to four months due to lengthy correspondences with central agencies and the state government about the project’s sustainability. We were able to persuade them on every issue they presented. “It’s only a matter of time before we obtain the go-ahead from the Department of Economic Affairs,” he added. “Because the semi-high-speed train and west coast canal are the LDF government’s hallmark projects, the state is keen to move on with these,” he continued.

The previous state cabinet approved the project’s Detailed Project Report (DPR), which is projected to be finished within five years of work beginning. The rail line will be routed through the least populous areas, with a width of 15-25 metres, in order to keep property acquisition to a bare minimum. The requisite land will be bought at market value in accordance with the RFCTLARR Act 2013. The Centre would be required to bear only 3% of the project cost, which will amount to roughly 3,000 crore in equity and railway land rate.

The Silverline corridor, which would connect Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod in four hours, will allow semi-high-speed trains to travel at an operating speed of 200 km/h on the 529.45km route. These trains will go from Thiruvananthapuram to Ernakulam in one and a half hours.

Semi High-Speed Rail: A cost effective sustainable transportation model

In 2019, A 531-kilometer semi-high-speed railway line from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod has been deemed ‘feasible and financially viable’ in order to increase connectivity, alleviate congestion on the State’s road network, and make travel more affordable.

Dedicated railway lines to Thiruvananthapuram International Airport and Cochin International Airport, as well as railway stations for inter-modal transportation, have also been discovered to be possible.

Semi-high-speed trains will travel at speeds ranging from 130 to 180 km/h, covering the north-south rail track from Kochuveli to Kasaragod in four hours. air-conditioned train sets along the lines of the recently inaugurated Train 18 have been suggested.

Stations

Kochuveli, Kollam, Chengannur, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Tirur, Kozhikode, Kannur, and Kasaragod would be among the ten stations served by the semi-high-speed trains.

Except for Alappuzha, Idukki, and Wayanad, the third and fourth railway lines in the 300-km Thiruvananthapuram-Shoranur segment would be separate from the present railway line. It would run parallel to the current rail line from Thirunavaya to Kasaragod, including railway bypasses at Vadakara and Thalaserry.

Estimated Cost

In its feasibility report, Paris-based engineering and consulting group Systra, the general consultant of Kerala Railway Development Corporation Limited (KRDCL), the special purpose vehicle set up to execute ‘viable’ projects on a cost-sharing basis between the State and Railways, estimated the cost at 56,000 crore, including land acquisition costs.

Speed

Despite the fact that the projected rail route has a top speed of 200 km/h, the trains will only be able to travel at a maximum speed of 180 km/h. Train sets with nine cars will be launched first, followed by sets with 12 and 15 vehicles. The coaches will be constructed of aluminium.

India’s first semi high speed train (History)

The Vande Bharat Express, popularly known as Train 18, is a high-speed intercity electric multiple unit in India. It was developed and produced during an 18-month period by Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Perambur, Chennai, as part of the Indian government’s Make in India programme. The unit cost of the first rake was stated to be 1 billion (US$14 million), however this figure is projected to decrease when more rakes are produced. It is believed that at the initial pricing, it is 40% less expensive than a similar train purchased from Europe. The train debuted on February 15, 2019, and by that time, a second unit will have been manufactured The Indian Railways operates two Vande Bharat trains as of July 2020.  In January 2021, Indian Railways granted a contract to Medha Servo Drives, located in Hyderabad, for the provision of propulsion and control systems for 44 rakes. 

The Vande Bharat Express is capable of reaching speeds of up to 200 km/h, however the actual max speed is only 130 km/h due to the speed restrictions of the railway track on which the Vande Bharat Express operates and ready for operation. On January 27, 2019, the service was renamed ‘Vande Bharat Express.’

Innovation and Development

Train 18’s external design features aerodynamic narrowing at both ends of the train. It features a driver coach at either end of the train, which allows for a speedier turnaround at either end of the railway. The train has 16 passenger carriages with a total seating capacity of 1,128. Two of the middle compartments are first class, with 52 seats apiece, while the remainder are coach, with 78 seats apiece.

The train’s seats, braking system, doors, and transformers are the only components that have been outsourced, with hopes to manufacture them locally on the next unit. Train 18 is equipped with a regenerative braking system.

Another unit is scheduled for production in 2020, followed by four more in 2021, for a total of six. The Railway Board has asked ICF to finish two of the new units by May 2019. “According to the Railway Board’s production schedule, the second train will arrive after the elections, and the third will arrive by October of this year. After October, ICF will run one train every other month until March 2020, and one rake every month beginning in April 2020.” According to the Ministry of Railways, Modern Coach Factory (MCF), Raebareli, which has been a shining example of ‘Make in India,’ would also produce additional Vande Bharat Express train sets in the coming months.

Train 19 was a projected higher-speed, long-distance electric multiple unit developed by ICF that was based on the Vande Bharat Express. Unlike Train 18, it was meant to contain sleeping carriages instead of seats. Train 20, another semi-high-speed train that will replace the Rajdhani Express, is also being developed by Indian Railways and ICF. The line is scheduled to debut in 2020. Indian Railways intends to buy 40 Train 18 train sets by 2022, each having a redesigned cabin crash guard composed of aluminium and a lithium-ion battery pack.

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