After completion, challenge of debt clearance awaits KRC

| 26 August 1997 23:17 IST

With more than half of its annual income to be spent in clearing debts, the Konkan Railway Corporation Ltd has to face yet another challenge of managing the 760 km-long route with mere Rs 220 crore annually, for a decade.

The KRCL is expected to commission the whole line, which is presently blocked by one 500 metre-long tunnel at Pernem on the Goa sector, hopefully by beginning of next year, though the new deadline is October. It is also planning to pay back its loans in 10 years, beginning from next year.

Out of total mobilisation of Rs 3350 crore, the debts of the KRCL amount to around Rs 2300 crore, including the annual interest of Rs 230 crore. Besides the financial cost of Rs 700 crore, it also includes loans taken from the Bank of America, the tax-free bonds and commercial market borrowings.

KRCL chairman E Sreedharan admits that they would be able to yield not more than Rs 450 crore annually, by running seven goods and passenger trains each on the one-track line in 24 hours. It includes five new trains on Mumbai-Goa sector and between Mangalore and Ratnagiri, four trains going to Kochi and Trivendrum from Delhi and Mumbai to be diverted and five locals.

With a huge amount of manpower required at two regional offices at Ratnagiri and Karwar, 59 stations as well as additional manpower at yards and junctions, the KRCL would be left with only Rs 220 crore to manage the whole show, even after paying only the annual interest of Rs 230 crore.

The RITES in the meanwhile has presented a rosy picture of traffic survey in next 15 years, as per which the goods traffic would increase from 7.4 million tonnes to 21.7 MT by 2011 while the passenger traffic would grow from 21.2 million to 46.3 million in next one a half decade.

Taken into consideration for such a rise are the upcoming steel plants in Konkan, two power plants in Mangalore sector, diversion of road traffic of agricultural and industrial products as well as diversion of rail traffic on North-South route due to reduced distance on Konkan railway route.

Sreedharan however on the other had also admits that the problems of landslides in Ratnagiri (Maharashtra) and Canacona (Goa), which causes frequent suspension of railway lines, would continue at least for three more monsoons while three more years are required to get the sinking embankments at Cortalim stabilised.

Though the route is designed for a speed of 160 km per hour, presently it cannot cross the speed limit of 80 km per hour while it is reduced to 50 km per hour at every major tunnel. Besides literally stopping the train at the places where cause the landslides, the trains runs at 10 km per hour speed in Cortalim.

No doubt that KRCL engineers will succeeded in commissioning the whole line by January after completing the Pernem tunnel, but whether it would run total 14 trains in a day on the one-track line for next three years in a given situation is still to be seen.

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