Khalap hurries to flag off Konkan Rly

| 15 December 1997 23:15 IST

Politicians never think practical, but political. Union law minister Ramakant Khalap is no exception to the rule.

As the Konkan Railway Corporation Ltd has succeeded in breaking through the most problematic Pernem tunnel on Saturday, he is now eager to flag off the first Mumbai-Goa train by next week.

The concern is not for the people rushing to his tourist state during the peak season. "The election commission may announce the dates of Lok Sabha polls any moment", says the worried North Goa MP.

As per the election code of conduct, all such launchings are totally banned once polls are officially announced. His plan is thus to get Prime Minister I K Gujral to flag off a train on 22 December.

"It's impossible", states one KRC engineer, "we have just succeeded in two ends meeting". The remaining work of lining, benching and laying the tracks will take minimum one more month, it is predicted.

The struggle to dig through the 1.5 km hillock on Goa-Maharashtra border went on for five long years, even by claiming few lives of the hard-working workers, due to soft soil.

Mere formality of flagging it off also has no meaning as trains are already running in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa. The only problem was the North-South link.

Except the 22 km-long stretch between Sawantwadi in Maharashtra and Pernem, trains are operational along 365 kms in Maharashtra and from Pernem station to Mangalore - a distance of 373 kms.

Six passenger trains are running, including four in Maharashtra, one from Mangalore to Margao in Goa and a rail car in the tourist state.

Once the work at Pernem is over, its immediate plan is to take the rail car upto Sawantwadi and take Mumbai trains upto Margao.

Plans are afoot to start two more Mumbai-Goa trains, one overnight and the superfast one. Besides, it would also divert on this line the Mumbai-Kochi Netravati Express, Rajkot - Trivendrum Express, Delhi - Kochi Mangala Express and Nizamuddin - Trivendrum Rajdhani Express.

With the completion of the ambitious project, the journey from Mumbai to Kochi would now save time of 12 hours, reaching in 24 hours while it would be a journey of hardly 15 hours upto Mangalore, saving 26 hours.

Even the Mumbaites or tourists coming via Mumbai would now reach Goa in 10 hours, cutting down its earlier time to half. This would obviously affect the most popular mode of transport - the costly and uncomfortable bus transport.

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