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Konkan Railway - a marvel and a failure

Thirty years ago, the railway ministry first conceived of the Konkan Railway. After detailed engineering surveys, in 1991, tracks were being laid against all odds boring tunnels through mountains, going over rivers and traversing a land with loose red soil. With over 2,000 bridges and 91 tunnels on the 740-km route, it was one of the toughest undertakings in recent times.

Yet, it was crucial, since it connected Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka. Travellers could also enjoy idyllic views of lush green mountains and gushing waterfalls.

The project changed the face of Indian Railways in the global arena. However, its shortcomings temper these accomplishments.

Every monsoon, a landslide or a train derailment results in deaths, injuries and loss of crores of rupees of public money. There have been two incidents this month one where boulders came crashing onto the tracks, and another derailment of a goods wagon that disrupted passenger services. The entire route is single line, with loop lines for train halts at most of its 56 stations.

In 2010, the first whiff of plans emerged, in which authorities decided to realign the route after it was shut for a week due to soil erosion and mudslides. They had identified stretches for extension and widening of lines in Nivsar, Sindhudurg, and Adavali, Karwar, to enable smoother movement of trains. Four years later, these plans are still on drawing boards, and surveys and studies are still on.

Hardly has any work been done towards augmenting line capacity, especially to ease passenger movements. When the engineers managed to construct a new line on difficult terrain with limited technology, it’s surprising to see why they are unable to lay additional lines in these times of advanced engineering technologies.

There is a need for the railway engineers who are all from crème de la creme institutes to find solutions for the growth of Konkan Railway, which attracts worldwide attention from tourists.

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