The Kerala Rail Development Corporation (KRDCL) is confident that the ₹66,405-crore Thiruvananthapuram-Kasaragod semi-high-speed rail corridor project (named Silver Line) for which year 2024 has been set as the deadline, will be economically feasible and attain operational break-even, within 10 years of being commissioned.
Of the total cost of the 532-km project, around 50% will be loan at less than 1% interest from multilateral lending agencies such as KfW, AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank), JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency), or ADB (Asian Development Bank). Repayment is assured since there will be a rate of return of 8.1% on the investment. The balance amount will be raised from equity and (subordinate) debt from from the State and Central governments, apart from other sources, said V. Ajith Kumar, managing director of KRDCL.
Wooing car users
On whether the ticket fare of ₹2.75 per km will be increased, he said there could be a yearly escalation of approximately 7.50%. “This is affordable even for people who travel by car or SUV, for which approximately ₹10 will have to be spent per km on fuel, wear and tear etc. This will be apart from lessening of north-south commuting time from 12 hours by different modes of transport to four hours by Silver Line. Driver fatigue too can be done away with.”
To a question on doubts about the economic feasibility of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed corridor, he said its project cost and ticket fare for a comparable distance would be double that of Silver Line. The Kerala project will also usher in transit-oriented development (TOD) in the vicinity of 10 major stations and 27 feeder/aggregate stations en route. The TOD will, in turn, maximise non-fare-box revenue. Special trains will operate between the feeder stations, to collect commuters and ferry them to Silver Line stations. These feeder trains will have more space for commuters than regular trains, Mr. Ajith Kumar said.