By Ashraf Padanna/Thiruvananthapuram
The people of Kerala overwhelmingly supports the state’s ambitious project to run north-south bullet trains despite high-decibel opposition from small groups.
A survey by market research agency C fore commissioned by the authorities found 86% of respondents support the plan while the opponents remain a mere 9% with 5% neutral.
The Communists, who came to power eight months ago on the promise of creating 2.5mn jobs in five years, have failed to make any headway. They are in desperate need of such massive project with substantial employment potential.
The project also envisages an investment of more than Rs1tn over seven years which they intend to raise through external borrowings and from the domestic market.
Though the previous government had incorporated the Kerala High-Speed Rail Corporation (KHSRC) and finalised its alignment, the new administration wanted to gauge public mood before proceeding ahead.
Researchers, who interviewed 13,447 voters from 110 assembly constituencies in 11 districts, reported a “95% confidence level.”
“The results of the survey show there is massive public support cutting across caste, community and class lines,” said Premchand Paletti, C fore CEO.
Only 73% of the people were aware of the project. But 82% of those who have earlier not heard of it also supported the idea of connecting the state capital to the northern city of Kannur in two hours.
The main reason the respondents gave for their support was saving of time. Many also believed it would be a catalyst for the state’s development and reduce greenhouse gas emission.
“The majority of those who opposed opined that the project will displace a large number of people,” he said.
Kerala’s poor roads and poor rail connectivity have been contributing to driving investors away. Tourists, a major driver of the state economy, are also critical of the long hours spent travelling.
A detailed project report is ready and has federal approval.
The previous government headed by Congress leader Oommen Chandy had asked the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation to prepare a detailed project report.
The train will run at a speed of 250 km per hour, stopping at seven stations (Kollam, Chengannur, Kottayam, Kochi, Thrissur, Valanchery, Kozhikode).
The main station will be Kochuveli, nearly 8km from here with Kochi and Kozhikode are other major hubs. Provision has been kept for one more future station at Nedumbassery near the Cochin International Airport.
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