Pernem tunnel holds KRC to ransom

| 05 October 1997 23:16 IST

Yet another collapse of the Pernem tunnel, the only one holding the whole 760 km long Konkan railway line to ransom, in Goa sector has postponed the deadline, making its commissioning impossible before January 1998.

Though there were no casualties as in the past, the collapse occurred on 26 august could restart the work at the 1.5 km long tunnel on the northern border of Goa only on 1 October, losing 36 days.

Besides loss of time, it's also a loss of Rs 25.20 crore only towards payment of interest the KRC is paying at the rate of Rs 70 lakh per day towards the loans it has taken internally as well as from the bank of America. "the rectification costs us three times more", discloses a site engineer.

This has obviously made the KRC authorities to meet "yet another final deadline" of October, announced by railway minister ram Vilas Paswan, but are hoping to complete it by November end.

But is it really possible ? "We are in a habit of making the impossible things possible", claims s v Salelkar, the KRC advisor and spokesperson. But the site engineers told this correspondent that only digging could be completed by November, subject to another collapse of the soft soil.

The KRC engineers and the brave labourers are struggling hard for last six and a half years to dig through the Pernem tunnel, where they predict to come across a hard rock of 49 mts. Though only 90 mts of portion is remaining, digging rate would be three metres per day the hard rock while half to one metre per day the soft soil. It would follow lining and laying the tracks.

The Konkan railway, in the meanwhile, has started running between Mumbai to Sawantwadi in Maharashtra and from Mangalore to Pernem station, covering 738 kms, including the whole Goa sector. But the linkage of 22 kms between Pernem and Sawantwadi stations is a pain in KRC's neck.

While few passenger trains have also started running between these lines, the Rail Car started in Goa on 24 august has been receiving lukewarm response from the passengers. Though the state government contributed in purchasing the Rail Car to facilitate office-goers in the state, the timings are odd, state the daily travellers.

It is learnt that the state transport ministry has conspired with the private bus lobby in the state to protect their profitable Panaji - Margao route, though closing of the Zuari bridge for heavy traffic is causing much inconvenience to the bus commuters. "The state government has still not responded to our request to change the timings", states Salelkar.

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