But for peninsular zone, Kerala chugs the Lalu track

Written by Economy Bureau | Thiruvananthapuram, Feb 26 | Updated: Feb 27 2008, 06:25am hrs
But for the requested peninsular rail zone, its the mother of all rail budgets for Kerala. With a Rs 5000-crore railway coach factory in Palakkad, four out of the announced 56 new trains, a route extension and budgetary allotment required to complete the urgent rail doubling and electrification measures, the Left MPs and LDF government of the state and Congress-led Opposition are, in a rare unison, singing the Lalu tunes.

And even the peninsular rail zone - vital for giving regional development priorities to rail-led development - is in agenda though, not in the budget. Lalu Prasad Yadav had said this would need clearance from the Planning Commission and Union Cabinet. Our next move is to expediate this consensus, M Vijayakumar, Kerala minister in charge of railway, said. A state delegation had met the Union railway minister to point out that although the number of rail zones had gone up from 9 to 18, there was yet to be a peninsular zone headquartered in Kerala.

Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan said that the rail budget has fulfilled Keralas wishlist fairly satisfactorily. Lalu Prasad had thanked the Kerala government for sanctioning 1000 acres of land in Palakkad free for the coach factory.

This is expected to translate to an investment of Rs 5000 crore in the coming years, says NM Krishnadas, MP from Palakkad.

Oppositon leader Ommen Chandy said that the state got its due mainly because of the intervention of UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and the Union ministers from Kerala.

The Rail budget also assures financial assistance to building rail-road connectivity to the upcoming Vallarpadam International Container Terminal at Kochi.

Bangalore-Kochuveli Garibrath, Kochuveli-Amritsar Express, Kochuveli-Dehradun Express and Shornur-Nilambur passenger are the newly allowed trains for Kerala. Bangalore-Coimbatore Express is extended to Kochi. The biweekly Thiruvananthapuram-New Delhi Rajadhani Express has been made tri-weekly service.