The Angamali-Sabarimala railway project aimed at putting the hill shrine into the railway network has suffered a setback with the Railways deciding to keep the project in abeyance and not infuse fresh funds.
The 116-km line, sanctioned in 1997-’98, is one of the 10 stalled rail infrastructure projects of the Southern Railway. “The Railway Board desires the Government of Kerala to share 50% of the project cost. But the State government is not willing to share the cost,” an official communication said.
The Sabari Rail also failed to figure in the priority list of the Kerala Rail Development Corporation Ltd. (KRDCL), the special purpose vehicle set up for executing viable rail projects on cost-sharing basis.
The Transport Department had earlier cancelled the government order issued for cost-sharing citing it as a sanctioned project. Quoting the order, the Railways were adamant that the State should bear 50% of the cost.
The proposed line would have helped over 300 lakh Ayyappa devotees visiting the hill shrine during the pilgrim season every year. Though the Railways provided ₹225 crore in the 2017-18 Union budget for the railway line, not much headway could be made due to opposition. The estimate of the rail line had gone up from ₹550 crore to ₹1,234 crore in 2005, to ₹1,566 crore in 2011 and now stands at ₹2,815.62 crore as per the communication. In the 2019-2020 Union budget, only ₹1 core had been allocated.
The final location survey and the peg marking to fix central line and lay boundary stones in the 40 km Anthinadu in Kaloor panchayat in Kottayam district to Erumely were completed. But, not even a single km of the 116 km had been commissioned.
As much as 470.77 hectares is needed for the line which passes through Ernakulam, Idukki, Kottayam and Pathanamthitta districts.
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