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Why are Konkan Railway fares inflated by 40%? Is the extra revenue generated sufficient to cover the costs of maintaining the tracks over hilly terrain?  
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Aug 28 2011 (6:40AM)

Entry# 689     
Why are Konkan Railway fares inflated by 40%? Is the extra revenue generated sufficient to cover the costs of maintaining the tracks over hilly terrain?

Aug 28 2011 (6:39AM)
News Entry# 35846  Is Konkan Railway now a white elephant?  
Posted by: rdb*^   Added by: rdb*^  Aug 28 2011 (6:40AM)
Mumbai: Are the routes on Konkan Railway (KR) a huge drain on the exchequer? Can they ever be financially viable? These are the questions being raised following repeated disruptions of rail traffic. In the last two months alone, rail traffic had to be suspended on three occasions due to waterlogging, landslides, and boulders sliding on to the tracks. Now senior railway board officials are saying that the costs of maintaining the route have far outstripped even the project cost. "To recover the cost of construction and the heavy maintenance costs, tariffs over the route are already inflated by 40% for passenger traffic and by 50% for freight traffic," pointed out a senior official. "But even that is not helping. The project cost Rs 800 crore, but clearing landslide debris is getting costlier by the day." This year alone, KR has spent nearly Rs 40 crore on clearing tracks. He explained how this...
dream project was something even the British toyed with and abandoned. "The Greater Indian Peninsular Railway had surveyed the region in the late 1930s. They found the narrow West Coast strip, bound by the Sahyadris on the east and the Arabian Sea on the west, unsuited for a railway. Their findings cited the presence of criss-cross mountain ranges, soft laterite soil, a large number of rivers, and tidal estuaries as reasons for abandoning the idea," he said, adding, "We thought we are technically advanced, but now, with the spate of disruptions and mishaps, it seems they were right."The 760 km-long route saw its first mishap on June 22, 2003, when a portion of the hill crashed, blocking the tunnel. This led to the derailment of the Mumbai-Karwar Jan Shatabdi Express, killing 51. A year later, on June 16, 2004, the Mumbai-Goa Matsyagandha Express collided with boulders that fallen at the entrance of a tunnel near Ratnagiri.Eight bogies were derailed, with two falling off the bridge, leaving 14 dead. The Matsyagandha Express met with another accident on November 8, 2010, near Ankola in North Kanara, this time hit by boulders that came crashing down the hillside. One died and 15 were injured. Though nobody is willing to go on record, KR sources estimate that to date, KR has spent a whopping Rs1,200 crore to keep its trains plying. "Landslides, caused by removal of basal support to the rock and soil mass on the hill-slope, are the major problem," avers Dr V Subramanyan, former geology professor, IIT Bombay, who has studied this region extensively. "The railway's excavation of the hill-slopes for laying the tracks contributes to the removal of this 'toe' support, as it is called, and initiates landslides," he explains. "The unfavourable inclination of the rocks and the heavy rains this region experiences only add to the problem." According to him, constructing retaining walls below the slopes that have been cut into is necessary to stabilise them. "Several such walls have been built by KR. However, as the recent wall collapse near Ratnagiri shows, the protection was rather weak and hence ineffective. Thicker, RCC walls, founded deep enough, are needed. KR has placed steel wire nets on some slopes susceptible to landslides. But intensive monitoring during the monsoon will help identify more such areas for preventive action."Dr Subramanyan also points to another culprit. He says due to weathering, the black 'basalt' rock found in Konkan releases spherical boulders. "The cycle of heating up during the day and cooling down during night produces rounded boulders due to 'spheroidal weathering.' These boulders, some fully buried, some partly buried, and some others released from their moorings, can be seen strewn all over. These get dislodged by vibrations caused by speeding trains and fall on the track, leading to accidents," he explains. He advises a detailed survey so that all loose boulders on hill-slopes near the track and above tunnel entrances can be located and removed. "Those partly buried should be anchored with appropriate cement sprays or structures. If the boulders are properly managed, accidents can be averted."Local environmentalists like Jeetendra Gharat put say part of the blame lies with the illegal quarrying activity. "Since these people enjoy the political patronage of the biggest politician in the Konkan region, nobody dares say anything," he laments. Admitting that the recurrent problem is a matter of concern, KR chief public relations officer Siddheshwar Telugu told DNA, "We set aside nearly Rs 25 crore for preventive pre-monsoon works to ensure a mishap-free monsoon. This is a continuous battle. We know huge funds are involved but KR now connects people across the country and we have to keep it going."
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