Chennai-Pondy coastal railway line may be built by private companies

The east coast railway line from Chennai to Puducherry and Cuddalore, via Mamallapuram, may now be built with private participation. The railway ministry has included the . 523 crore project on a list of 37 projects that could be handed over to private firms.

The project — part of the proposed Chennai-Kanyakumari coastal line — has been approved by the railway board to provide a link to fast developing areas along the Old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR).

The 179km line, to be laid between OMR and the East Coast Road, is expected to connect Sholinganallur, Kovalam, Tiruporur, Mamallapuram, Kalpakkam, Koovathur, Cheyyur, Marakkanam, Kunimedu, Kuiyilappalayam, Jipmer in Puducherry, Bahour, Varakalpattu, Tirupadipuliyur and Cuddalore Fort.

“As of now, railways is doing the project but may want to consider different options because of the huge cost involved and the need to finish it fast,” said a senior Southern Railway official. The new line is to be taken up as a “socially desirable” project and the railways has not mentioned any rate of return for the investor. Companies come in where govt funds run dry.

The railway line was sanctioned in the supplementary budget of 2007, but only 26 crore was sanctioned in subsequent years for land survey, location survey and other preliminary works. Meanwhile, the cost escalated from 523 crore to 800 crore. The final location survey was done in 2011.
“Going by the rate at which the ministry is able to sanction funds the line will take more than 10 years to complete. This is the reason the railway board is looking at different options, including privatisation of the works. The board is yet to finalise the model in which the project will be taken up,” he added.

To execute such projects, a cost sharing-freight rebate model, full contribution model, under-a-special-purpose vehicle model and privateline model have been proposed. The terms and conditions say the land will be acquired and owned by railways.

The ministry has mooted private participation for new lines, gauge conversion, doubling and to lay third line because several projects are being delayed due to slow sanctioning of money. Every project may not get full funds because money will have to be allocatedfor all projectsbeing carried out in the country.
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