Thiruvananthapuram | The Kerala government today requested the Railways to implement the ambitious Sabari railway line project without insisting that the state bear half the cost. The project would be beneficial to millions of Ayyappa pilgrims from other states visiting the famous Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala every year. Replying to a calling attention on the issue in the assembly, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the state was yet to receive a reply from the Centre on its request to implement the project with Railways bearing the entire cost.
The proposed line starts from Angamally in Ernakulam district and ends at Erumelli, one of the major Ayyappa pilgrims base camp centre, at Kottayam district. Chandy said as per the new policy, Railways can undertake new projects under a 50:50 formula of cost sharing. But the state’s contention is that Sabari rail is an old project, work on which had already started, he said.
So the new policy guidelines should not be applicable to Sabari rail. Also, one should take into consideration the importance of the Sabarimala temple, Chandy added. The estimated cost of the project when it was conceived years ago was Rs 517 crore. But due to delay in implementation, the cost had escalated to Rs 1,566 crore now, he said. Issues related to land acquisition for the project had been sorted out, Chandy said, adding, that the present hurdle for it was the new policy guidelines of the Railways.
To a question of Congress’s Joseph Vazhackan, who moved the calling attention, that whether Kerala would express willingness to bear half of the cost, Chandy said the state would take a decision only after getting a reply from the Centre on its earlier request to commission the project as that of Railways.
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