Kerala's first Vande Bharat train service extended till Kasaragod.

Kerala's first Vande Bharat train service extended till Kasaragod.

Kerala's first Vande Bharat train service extended till Kasaragod.

Kerala’s first Vande Bharat Express train will run from Thiruvananthapuram till the northernmost part of Kasaragod, Union Ministry of Railways said here on Tuesday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to flag off the train during his Kerala visit on April 25.

Ashwini Vaishnaw, Union Minister for Railways, said that while the train has a good speed potential, it gets limited by non-upgraded tracks which slow it down. “In Kerala, we are going to upgrade tracks in three phases. In the first phase, the stretch between Kasaragod to Thiruvananthapuram, where the train has a speed potential of 110 km per hour but in many sections the speed gets limited to 70 to 80 km per hour, will be taken up. A budget of ₹351 crore has been allocated to upgrade the tracks in this stretch,” said Mr. Vaishnaw. 

He said the tracks will be replaced wherever they need replacement, and double distance signals will be added. “These will make sure the driver comes to know about the incoming signal from a long distance itself,” said Mr. Vaishnaw.

The Union Minister said the stretch has multiple places where curves will have to be straightened and that will require land acquisition. “The time frame for completing the works will be between one to one-and-a-half years. We are further aspiring to increase the train speed up to 160 kmph, but it is a very complex project and that will only happen after three-and-a-half years,” he said.

Kerala has a unique topography, and mobility in the State requires improvement, noted Mr. Vaishnaw. “A sum of ₹156 crore has been sanctioned for comprehensive development of the Thiruvananthapuram area where Nemom and Kochuveli will be developed as major terminals so Thiruvananthapuram can be decongested,” he said.

A total of ₹495 crore has been sanctioned for the development of Kollam, Ernakulam and Thiruvananthapuram. Further, ₹350 crore has been sanctioned for Varkala, and another ₹350 crore for the development of Kozhikode. 

“Our goal is to connect every State by Vande Bharat trains by the end of May this year,” said Mr. Vaishnaw.

The Minister said that while currently these Vande Bharat trains are running in chair car formats for distances up till 500 km or 600 km, by December this year or latest by January next year, Vande Bharat sleeper coach format will also be rolled out, at a frequency of one train per week. For shorter distances up to 100 km providing connectivity between two towns, Vande Metros will shuttle at a shorter frequency and they too will be rolled out by February next year, he added.

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