The construction of the 103-km long Kolhapur-Vaibhavwadi link on Konkan Railway in Maharashtra, providing the first connection from the state’s hinterland to the coastal regions, will start soon, an official said on Wednesday.
The railway link would also boost the proposed Nanar refinery complex in Ratnagiri.
The decision on this project, estimated to cost around Rs 3,000 crore, was taken at a review meeting of Koknkan Railway Corporation (KRC) chaired by Union Minister for Industry and Civil Aviation Suresh Prabhu in Delhi on Tuesday. Among those present were the Chairman of Railway Board, the Chairman and Managing Director of KRC, and other officials.
The Minister said that the construction of this section would be a game-changer not only for the KRC, but also for the coastal Konkan and the state’s economy.
It will link the coastal region of Maharashtra with western Maharashtra, boost tourism, lead to development of ports and harbours, including the Jaigarh and Dighi ports and allow flow of goods from the hinterland to the coast.
Additionally, it will facilitate the movement of petroleum from the proposed world’s largest integrated refinery-cum-petrochemicals complexes coming up at Nanar, near Vaibhavwadi in Ratnagiri district, he added.
The $40 billion mega-refinery complex, scheduled for commissioning by 2022, is being built by the Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL).
The refinery complex will have a capacity to process 60 million tonnes per annum and the Kolhapur-Vaibhavwadi rail link will facilitate movement of petroleum and petrochemicals from the refinery to the interiors.
However, currently it is mired in a huge controversy with major political parties including ruling ally Shiv Sena and the opposition Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, local villagers, environmentalists and others strongly opposing the project and the $16 billion Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project also planned in the same district.
Prabhu explained that the future economic growth of Maharashtra hinges on the connectivity of its coastal areas — separated by the tall hills in the Western Ghats — with the rest of the state and the country.
KRC CMD Sanjay Gupta told the minister that in order to improve services of the Konkan Railway (KR) network to cover more villages and towns, 10 new stations are also being constructed en route, with the first slated for inauguration in January 2019.
The Indian Railways had sanctioned the Kolhapur-Vaibhavwadi line in which the Central government will bear 50 per cent of the total cost and the rest will be footed by Maharashtra.