Railway Board approves India's second-longest rail tunnel. It is from Vizhinjam to Balaramapuram


India's Railway Board approves the Detailed Project Report (DPR) to build a 10.7km railway line from Balaramapuram to Vizhinjam in Thiruvananthapuram district (of Kerala state). A large part (9.02 km) of this railway line will be a tunnel. The main purpose of the new railway line is to connect the Vizhinjam International Multipurpose Deepwater Seaport to the railway network. Project cost is estimated at Rs 1,030-crore.

The line will be single track. Its depth will be minimum 15 meters and maximum 35 meters below ground. The new line will run parallel to the Vizhinjam-Balaramapuram road and since it will mostly be an underground tunnel, very little land will have to be acquired. This is very important because the railway route lies in a highly densely populated area which proved costly and problematic to acquire a land even for the station of  Balaramapuram railway. Land acquisition will be limited to mainly both ends of the line, projected to be as at least 6.57 hectares.

Earlier this year, Vizhinjam International Seaport Limited (VISL) MD Dr Jayakumar had held talks with the Southern Railway for securing the approval for the project. The proposal prepared by the Konkan Railway Corporation Limited (KRCL) had been presented to a a 5-person committee headed by Fisheries and Ports Secretary Asha Thomas. The committee would evaluate the project report and recommend the Project Implementation Committee(PIC) headed by the Chief Secretary for the implementation of the Vizhinjam Seaport project. Only after PIC approval would follow the detailed technical study, tender proceedings and land acquisition process.

In the beginning of 2018, the state government-owned company Vizhinjam International Seaport Limited (VISL), implementing the Vizhinjam port project, had signed a memorandum of understanding Konkan Railway Corporation Limited (KRCL) for providing rail connection for the port. The MOU was signed in the presence of the Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan by VISL's managing director Jayakumar and KRCL's Chief Managing Director Sanjay Gupta. In fact KRCL is not the first party who signed an MOU on this project with VISL. Previously the company Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL) which had originally conducted the study had also signed an MOU but later pulled out citing other work.
It is said that, the costs for extending the line to the Vizhinjam port region will be covered by the Adani Group (an Indian multinational conglomerate headquartered in Ahmedabad which develops the Vizhinjam port).

When completed, it will be the second longest railway tunnel in India. The longest railway tunnel in India at this point in time is Pir Panjal tunnel in Jammu Kashmir. Part of the Jammu–Baramulla line, The Pir Panjal Railway Tunnel (or Banihal railway tunnel) has a length of 11.215 km. It goes through the Panjal Range of middle Himalayas in Jammu and Kashmir.