Improved Air Connectivity Proposed as Alternative to Kerala Semi-High Speed Rail Project
While Kerala’s proposed semi-high-speed train project is facing strong resistance from various sides, an alternative proposal to improve domestic air connectivity by setting up airstrips is gaining momentum in the Southern State.
Compared to the 530 kilometer rail project, improved air connectivity may involve lower financial obligations, less land acquisition and low ecological impacts. However, higher travel costs and low ridership are cited by experts as drawbacks to considering air travel as an alternative to the rail project.
Kerala had previously mooted plans to set up a state government-owned airline, named Air Kerala, with the aim of providing low-cost connectivity to Gulf countries to cater to the large non-Indian population. resident. But it was dropped because the standards stipulated a domestic service of five years and a fleet of 20 flights.
Founding Chairman of Kerala Land Reforms and Development Cooperative Society, CN Vijaykrishnan has spoken of air connectivity as an alternative to the semi-high speed rail project. Kerala already has four airports and a fifth is proposed near the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple.
He suggested in an article published in a vernacular daily that the cost of setting up a few additional mini-airports accommodating 48-seater aircraft and acquiring five aircraft, in the initial phase, would be much lower compared to the costs of setting up the semi-high speed rail line.
Former director of Kerala’s National Transport Planning and Research Centre, BG Sreedevi, said improving air connectivity could be a better alternative to the proposed rail project as the government’s financial commitment is short. money and the ecological impact would be lower. She also added that private airlines could offer services if there was adequate demand and that the government should impose price regulations.
Technocrat E Sreedharan and former director of Thiruvananthapuram airport, VN Chandran, said higher fares would not make air connectivity a better alternative. Chandran said operational costs for short-haul flights would be higher and therefore fares would also be high. He also pointed out that a campaign against the environmental risks posed by the flights was also gaining momentum in European countries.
Environmentalists and experts are fighting to improve existing roads and popularize electric vehicles as the most ideal option for Kerala.
While the state government’s cost estimate for the semi-high-speed train project is around Rs 65,000 crore, experts argue that the cost would go up to Rs. 1.25 lakh crore . Besides the huge financial obligation, about 20,000 families will have to be evicted, the railway line poses a threat to the natural flow of water and the huge amount of building materials needed could lead to construction activities. massive mining in the state.
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