After double tracking work in Goa’s Chandor was stalled due to citizen protests, the South Western Railways (SWR) has said that civic society had “misconstrued” the tracks as being coal tracks.
The SWR is double tracking a 342-km “critical” railway link between Karnataka’s Hospet and Goa’s Vasco. While only the last 10-km stretch in Karnataka is left to be completed, and is expected to be completed by March 2021, Railways are finding it tough to work on the 90-km stretch in Goa.
Railways state they are “not acquiring any new land” and are only improving connectivity through the Western Ghats, saying that trains are using only “1/10th of the actual capacity” and are unable to develop “amenities including new stations and better passenger shelters”. ‘
However, Goa residents fear that the track expansion is part of the creation of a coal corridor.
The press meet was organised by Railways to resolve apprehensions Goa residents might have with regard to the tracks.
According to railway officials, the primary reason for the double tracking was to increase domestic tourism in Goa, with further connectivity to Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. “Further, Goa is very strategically situated in the western coast so from defence point of view too, to move troops and material in case of emergency expeditiously we shall have connectivity which will be possible with this work,” SWR Deputy General Manager E Vijaya said.
An official from Rail Vikas Nigam also stated that the markings on the walls and compounds of Goan homes by Rail Vikas Nigam are being revisited as “the alignment is yet to be finalised”. Many residents ofChandor had opposed to destruction of heritage homes, which the railway officials added, “they respect and are doing their best to avoid it”.
The officials also insisted that the double tracks were in the design plan by the Portuguese – colonial rulers of Goa till 1961 – and that the project was currently being undertaken to “relax bottlenecks in the Ghats”.
“The British government then really didn’t want the Goan economy or port to grow and they had Karwar port [in Karnataka] in mind,” Mishra said. “Accordingly, a single-line metre gauge in the connecting portion [was left pending]. Despite the intention of Goa and Portuguese government, this line could not be laid.”
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