Integrated coaching terminal project in Kochi in doldrums

ICT will result in three railway stations within close proximity to one another, affecting the overall operation of trains, say officials

The fate of the much-awaited project to decongest Ernakulam Junction and Town railway stations by developing an integrated coaching terminal (ICT) in 110 acres of underutilised railway land in the Ponnurunni-Kathrikadavu area is in doldrums, with the Thiruvananthapuram Division of the Southern Railway conveying its reservations on the project, it is learnt.

At the same time, the Southern Railway has extended its support to the project that will be executed on public-private partnership (PPP) basis and conveyed it to the Railway Board. It is because the ICT, in which over half-a-dozen platforms too are envisaged, will considerably speed up train movement through Ernakulam and thereby the entire State. The Railways will incur little or no expense for it, official sources said.

The development comes eight months after Kerala Rail Development Corporation Limited (KRDCL) submitted its feasibility report on the project to the Southern Railway. The agency was also willing to prepare a detailed project report (DPR) for the project, if needed. Even as key officials of the Southern Railway were supportive of the initiative in which the Railways need not invest funds, a section of railway officials are up in arms against it, it is learnt.

“Building an ICT in the area [a portion of which is now used as a marshalling yard] will result in three railway stations within close proximity of one another, in the city. This could affect the overall operation of trains passing through Ernakulam. In addition, only the Rail Land Development Authority [RLDA] has the mandate for commercial development of railway land. It ought to take a call on the project,” a senior official of the Thiruvananthapuram Division said.

Sources in KRDCL said the Southern Railway had not officially responded to its feasibility report that was submitted way back in January. “Neither has it sought any clarification. A DPR that could be readied will mention the technical parameters and modalities of funding. It can be readied only on the basis of the status of the feasibility report,” they added.

Well before KRDCL submitted its feasibility report, Ernakulam MP Hibi Eden had submitted a preliminary project report, which was prepared by a private firm, to then Railway Minister in December 2019.

Both the reports were aimed at optimally using the largely idling 110 acres being put to optimal use for speeding up train movement through the region. Most trains are now detained in the suburbs of the city or in the ‘outer’ of Ernakulam Junction and Town railway stations, for want of reception capacity at the two stations.

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