The issue of constructing a railway over bridge at Vathuruthy is one that has been pending for a long time now. Several organisations, including ours, have taken up this issue with the authorities concerned time and again over the years hoping for a speedy solution. We are now glad to note that things have begun moving in the right direction with the State Government including this proposal in its Budget and the Indian Railways too approving its share of the funding.
In today’s context, this proposal has attained vital importance with the Railways revamping the rail line to Willingdon Island so as to start passenger train services from the Cochin Harbour Terminus. This will be of immense benefit to the working people on the Willingdon Island, the Naval Base and also to the people of West Cochin. With the commissioning of the proposed service the railway level cross gate at Vathuruthy will need to be shut several times a day which will result in huge traffic snarls. This in turn will also affect the movement of men and cargo from the Cochin Port area.
The extension of the rail line from the old Railway Station in Ernakulam to Willingdon Island by Sir Robert Bristow in the thirties was an event that changed the very configuration of the City. The road that passes through Willingdon Island on which the level cross is located was the NH prior to the advent of the present NH bypass. It was also, and still is, the arterial road that linked the commercial and tourist areas of Mattancherry and Fort Cochin to the mainland. The two roads Bristow Road and the Indira Gandhi Road that service the whole of the Port area, also links up to this road.
Presently due to heavy traffic, the authorities have banned the movement of cargo vehicles through this railway gate during peak hours which adversely affects the cargo movement to the Port. Years ago, it was in a similar situation that the Port and the Cochin Chamber of Commerce represented to the Government the imminent need for a ROB to replace the existing railway gate.
As you are aware, the Naval clearance for the proposed ROB was not forthcoming for a very long time since the existing railway gate falls midway between the flight funnels of the two runways of the naval airport. Given the fact that the level crossing was stifling traffic the Municipal Corporation represented the need for the ROB to all the Government agencies. The then PWD Minister Sri VK. Ibrahim Kunju and the local MP Prof. K.V. Thomas called a meeting of all stake holders. It was decided to entrust the preparation of a detailed feasibility plan for the ROB to the Roads & Bridges Development Corp. Kerala (RBDCK).
The Municipal Corporation (KMC) took the lead to coordinate the multiple players, the CPT, RBDCK, State PWD, Railways, Navy, and KITCO. After several site visits and discussions, a proposal was made by KITCO and we understand that this has been accepted by all. This proposal was discussed at a meeting with the State Minister for Transport and finalised.
We now understand that as things stand today, the Port’s permission to let the ROB landing commence from the side of the Bristow Road and also with regard to a small piece of land opposite the Port water works is required. Since the central portion of the ROB passes through Railway land it is only around 25 cents of Port land for which consent/NOC is required from the Port Trust and there is absolutely no need for transfer of any Port land.
However, we are told that in lieu of the NOC for the over bridge the Port has asked the State Government to transfer around 15 acres of land near Vallarpadam Terminal which had been promised by the Government earlier. We should understand that these are totally unrelated issues and should not be leveraged to hinder the progress of a much-needed infrastructure project.
The Cochin Chamber of Commerce & Industry makes this representation in the hope that the long-cherished desire of a ROB at Vathuruthy does not get sidelined because of unrelated and unimportant issues. It now appears that all the pieces for the implementation of this project have fallen in place and hence we request that you do everything possible to enable the building of the ROB at Vathuruthy at the earliest.
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