|Opened||26 January 1998|
|Owner||Ministry of Railways, Indian Railways|
|Operator(s)||Konkan Railway Corporation|
|Line length||736 km (457.33 mi)|
|Number of tracks||1|
|Track gauge||1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in)|
|Operating speed||120 km/h (75 mph)|
Until the Konkan Railway started its operations, the two important port cities Mangaluru and Mumbai were not directly connected by the railway network. People would travel by trains running through inland India via Bengaluru-Belagavi-Pune route. In the mid-twentieth century, people travelling to Mumbai from Mangaluru and adjoining areas would go to Kadur or Birur by bus and then catch a train to Mumbai (Bombay then). In the 1970s National Highway 17 (NOW NH-66) was built to connect these cities by road.
Although the brainchild of veteran parliamentarian from Ratnagiri, Nath Pai M.P., national leaders such as Madhu Dandavate and George Fernandes, who hailed from the Konkan played a major role in the conception of Konkan Railway. In 1966, a line was constructed between Diva in Mumbai and Panvel in Raigad district. During the tenure of Madhu Dandavate, this was extended up to Roha in 1986, mainly to serve the industries located in the area. At the same time, works on Mangalore-Thokur line took impetus. However, the missing link from Roha to Mangaluru still remained. In October 1984, the Ministry of Railways decided to take a final location engineering-cum-traffic survey for the west coastal portion from Surathkal to Madgaon - a total distance of 525 km. In March 1985, the railways decided to extend the scope of their survey to include the omitted length of the west coast line extending from Madgaon to Roha. The Southern Railway was entrusted with this final location survey. They submitted the project report for this route to the Railway Ministry in 1988 and named it as the Konkan Railway.
Drawing up their plans in an office, Mr. Sreedharan's team had yet to realise what kind of terrain they would have to battle, and though some surveys had been conducted, there was no data for the entire stretch in Maharashtra - a route which involved half the length of the line. Besides, the task was formidable. With a total number of over 2,000 bridges and 91 tunnels to be built through this mountainous terrain containing many rivers, it was the biggest and perhaps the most difficult railway engineering project on the Indian subcontinent at the time. A major challenge in the area was land acquisition as circa 43000 landowners had to be negotiated with. But though land related lawsuits are common in the Konkan, when KRCL began persuading people to give up property that had belonged to their families for generations, many gave it up voluntarily, convinced of the importance of the project. This enabled the entire process to be completed in just a year.
There were challenges posed by the terrain and the elements. Flash floods, landslides and tunnel collapses affected work at many places on the project. The region was also thickly forested, and construction sites were often plagued by wild animals. Despite these problems, work on the project continued, and an effective system of decentralisation enabled better efficiency. The entire stretch of 740 kilometres (460 mi) was divided into seven sectors - Mahad, Ratnagiri, Kudal, Panaji, Karwar, Udupi - of approximately 100 km each, headed by a Chief Engineer.
Contracts for the project were awarded to some of the biggest and most reputed construction firms in India, including Larsen and Toubro, Gammon India and AFCONS. To enable quicker construction, several innovative practices were adopted. Piers for major bridges were cast on the riverbanks itself and launched using cranes mounted on pontoons. The technique of incremental launching of bridge spans was used for the first time in India. Since it would take too long to complete the project using locally available tunnelling technology, nine hydraulic tunnelling machines were imported from Sweden in order to bore through the hard rock of the Sahayadris. The biggest challenge, however, came from the nine tunnels that had to be bored through soft soil. No technology existed anywhere in the world for this purpose and the work had to be carried out through a painstakingly slow manual process. Excavation was almost impossible due to the clayey soil that was saturated with water owing to a high water table in the region. Several times tunnels collapsed immediately after they had been dug, necessitating work to be redone. Nineteen lives and four years were lost while constructing the soft soil tunnels alone. In all, seventy-four people perished during the construction of the line.
Like most other major projects in India, the Konkan Railway was not without its share of controversies. The biggest one arose in the state of Goa, comprising 105 kilometres (65 mi) of the route, where serious concerns were raised about the environmental and economic impact of the line on the state. The opponents to the project stated that the proposed alignment, passing through the coastal regions of the state, would cause destruction of ecology, damage historical sites, and disrupt the lifestyles of people in the densely populated coastal region of the state. In 1991, they came together under an umbrella organisation called the Konkan Railway Re-Alignment Committee (KRRAC) and organised protests against the proposed alignment of the railway line.
The main points raised by the KRRAC were that the existing alignment would cause flooding in coastal regions, destroy the fertile khazan lands, harm the monuments of Old Goa, cause irreparable damage to the marshes and mangrove swamps along the coastline and estuaries of the Mandovi and Zuari rivers, and result in the large-scale displacement of neighbourhoods along the coastal belt through which it passed. The KRRAC proposed an alternative alignment for the line, known as the hinterland alignment, to offset these problems. The hinterland alignment, passing through the relatively unpopulated hinterland of the state, was to be longer by about 25 kilometres (16 mi), but according to the KRRAC, would significantly minimise the damage caused to the environment.
The hinterland alignment was rejected by the Konkan Railway Corporation on the grounds that it would involve substantial diversion of the line, deny rail access to the major towns of the state, and result in severe delays and escalation of costs of construction. By then, the KRRAC had grown into a political movement, backed by the powerful Church and certain political parties. In March 1992, it filed a public interest litigation in the Bombay High Court, seeking an injunction on the construction work and a diversion of the line through the hinterland alignment. In the plaint, it raised all the issues that had been brought up earlier. The High Court dismissed the plaint in April 1992, observing that
|“||...the claim of the petitioners that the alignment would have devastating and irreversible impact upon the khazan lands is without any foundation, and even otherwise, the extent of damage is extremely negligible and a public project of such a magnitude which is undertaken for meeting the aspirations of the people on the west coast cannot be defeated on such considerations. It is not open to frustrate the project of public importance to safeguard the interest of few persons. It cannot be overlooked that while examining the grievance about adverse impact upon a small area of 30 hectares of Khazan lands, the benefit which will be derived by large number of people by construction of rail line cannot be brushed aside. The Courts are bound to take into consideration the comparative hardship which the people in the region will suffer by stalling the project of great public utility. The cost of the project escalates from day to day and, as pointed out by the Corporation, the extent of the interest and east which will be suffered by the Corporation every day is to the tune of Rs. 45 lakhs. No development is possible without some adverse effect on the ecology and environment...||”|
Amid all the controversies and problems dogging the project, work continued to progress. In March 1993, the southernmost section of 47 kilometres (29 mi) between Thokur and Udupi in Karnataka was inaugurated, followed by the northernmost section of 47 kilometres (29 mi) between Roha and Veer in Maharashtra in June 1993. The first passenger train on the route was run between Mangaluru and Udupi on 20 March 1993. The service was extended by 51 kilometres (32 mi) from Veer to Khed in March 1995, and by a further 265 kilometres (165 mi) from Khed to Sawantwadi Road in December 1996. Services on the southern end were extended by 32 kilometres (20 mi) from Udupi to Kundapura in January 1995, and by a further 275 kilometres (171 mi) till Pernem in Goa in August 1997. However, through services between Mumbai and Mangalore continued to remain on hold due to a problematic tunnel at Pernem, which was facing repeated cave-ins and flooding. The tunnel was finally completed in January 1998, six years after its construction had commenced. Through services on the line commenced after a formal inauguration of the entire stretch of 740 kilometres (460 mi) from Roha to Mangaluru on 26 January 1998. Trains carrying passengers started running along the full route between Mumbai and Mangaluru from May 1998.
The Konkan Railway does not have divisions like the other Indian Railways; however, it has two regions with headquarters at Ratnagiri in Maharashtra and Karwar in Karnataka. The Ratnagiri railway region extends over 480 kilometres (300 mi) from Roha to Sawantwadi in Maharashtra, while the Karwar railway region extends over 660 kilometres (410 mi) from Pernem in Goa to Surathkal in Karnataka.Railway Regions an are headed by Regional Railway Manager.
The route is a single-line track, and is not electrified. The total length of the line is about 738 kilometres (459 mi). Although it has been designed for high-speed traffic of 160 kilometres per hour (99 mph), the fastest train on the route, the Trivandrum Rajdhani Express, at present runs at a maximum speed of 110 kilometres per hour (68 mph). The route is open to both freight and passenger traffic. The line, which runs parallel to the Arabian Sea coastline, offers some of the most spectacular views of any Indian rail journey.The Konkan railway route intersects national highway NH-66 at many places.
There are fifty-six stations on the entire line. Although the route is currently a single line, KR and South Western Railway lines run parallel from Majorda to Margao in Goa, making that section a double line.
According to a study conducted by Konkan Railway, doubling the track is possible on about 300 km that runs on the plains. There are several patches along the 738 kilometres (459 mi) line that can be converted to double track. For example, the 47 km from the starting point at Roha to Veer. The 60 km stretch between Udupi and Mangalore is another stretch
Doubling of tracks on the route: On 3 November 2015 the Konkan Railway CMD Bhanu P Tayal announced to the press that "All paper works, including financing modalities, have been completed and foundation-laying ceremony would take place on November 8 in Kolad in the presence of Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu",  "Doubling of the tracks along with the electrification would start from November 8. The process of awarding the tender would begin soon. LIC has come forward to finance us and offered loan of Rs 250 crore at cheaper rates and other major finance companies have shown their interests to fund the project,", The project of doubling tracks is estimated to cost the exchequer Rs 10,000 crore while the electrification project will cost around Rs 750 crore. Konkan Railways has fixed the target of completing this project in next five years.
The route became quite popular with passengers from the day it was opened, due to the connectivity it provided to regions hitherto inaccessible by rail, as well as the substantial savings in time for commuters between western and southern India. Several trains, which earlier took circuitous routes were diverted via the Konkan Railway, leading to a reduction in running time. The first of these was the Mumbai - Mangaluru Netravati Express later extended to Trivandrum, which was diverted via the Konkan Railway from 1 March 1998, followed by the Trivandrum Rajdhani from 1 April 1998. The Matsyaganda Express running from Lokmanya Tilak Terminus to Mangalore was flagged off on 1 May 1998. The Hazrat Nizamuddin - Mangalore Mangala Lakshadweep Express was diverted on the route from 1 August 1998 and extended to Ernakulam Junction. The Pune-Ernakulam Junction Express was introduced on 25 February 1999. Another train called Marusagar Express, which runs between Jaipur and Ernakulam Junction (Now extended till Ajmer) via the Konkan Railway began its service on 12 October 2001. The Jan Shatabdi Express was flagged off between Mumbai and Madgaon (longest running Jan Shatabdi)on 16 April 2002, to commemorate 150 years of the existence of Indian Railways. On 1 February 2008, a Garib Rath between Kochuveli satellite station of Thiruvananthapuram and Lokmanya Tilak Terminus was flagged off.
In 2009 Mumbai–Karwar tri-weekly Super Fast express was introduced. Within a year it was extended to Mangalore Junction railway station and ran daily. In 2011 Pune–Ernakulam Super Fast express via Panvel was introduced on bi-weekly basis. In 2012, a train from Sawantwadi To Dadar was launched, named as Rajya Rani Express.
Freight response to the Konkan Railway was lukewarm, prompting the worried corporation to consider cutting rates. With an outstanding debt of ₹3,375 crore, KRCL was banking on freight traffic to bail it out. In an effort to attract freight traffic, the corporation began creating awareness among local industries on the route.
In 1999, the corporation introduced the Roll-on/roll-off (RORO) service, a unique road-rail synergy system, on the section between Kolad in Maharashtra and Verna in Goa, which was extended up to Surathkal in Karnataka in 2004. The RORO service, the first of its kind in India, allowed trucks to be transported on flatcars. It was highly popular, carrying about 1.6 lakh trucks and bringing in over ₹120 crore worth of earnings to the corporation till 2009.
The hostile terrain and difficult weather conditions of the Konkan region resulted in problems continuing to dodge the line even after its inauguration. The first problems surfaced during the monsoon of 1998, when torrential rainfall caused landslides at many places, washed away tracks and disrupted services. Despite the corporation's efforts at addressing the problems through engineering measures such as protective netting along cuttings to prevent boulders from rolling onto the tracks, the problems continued to recur each year.
The first major accident on the line occurred on the night of 22 June 2003, when a landslide caused an express train travelling from Karwar to Mumbai to derail at the entrance to a tunnel. Fifty-one people died as a result of the accident, and several others were injured. As a result of the accident, the corporation came under heavy criticism for failing to adhere to adequate safety measures in the landslide-prone region. An inquiry revealed the cause of the accident to be a failure of a cutting due to absence of monsoon patrolling. The findings were disputed by the corporation, which insisted that the lack of monsoon patrolling did not lead to the accident which was entirely a result of the forces of nature. Shortly after the accident, the corporation announced that it would enhance safety measures on the route.
Barely a year later, these measures were found to be inadequate when a second major accident occurred on the line on 16 June 2004. The Matsyaganda Express bound to Mumbai from Mangalore derailed and fell off a bridge after colliding with boulders on the tracks, killing 20 people. Again, the corporation insisted that the mishap was a result of nature's fury. After the accident, questions were raised about the safety and credibility of the Konkan Railway. An enquiry by the Commissioner of Railway Safety revealed the cause of the accident to be due to "falling of boulders and earth" on the tracks. After the report, the corporation swung into action, implementing all its recommendations, including limiting the speed of trains during the monsoon to 75 km/h (47 mph) as opposed to the regular speed limit of 120 km/h (75 mph), as well as undertaking several geo-technical engineering works, including boulder netting, shotcreting, rock bolting, micropiling and vetiver plantations along the line to increase safety.
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