Vallarpadam rail link gets a new life

It is the second-longest rail link in India. The 4.62km-long Vallarpadam rail bridge, commissioned in February 2011, has never been utilised to its fullest, until now.

The rail link, constructed exclusively for transporting containers to and from the International Container Transshipment Terminal (ICTT), is suddenly seeing a spurt in activities for the past three months. While the Covid-19 outbreak came as a blow to many, for ICTT it has turned a boon, with it witnessing steady traffic with around eight to nine rakes arriving every month. According to Rejo Peter, terminal manager, Concor, the numbers were high during April and May. “This was when the states had closed their borders and road transport came to a screeching halt, due to Covid,” he said. With the lifting of the lockdown restrictions, the number has come down to two to four, he added.

“However, that is not low compared to the traffic that ICTT saw in the previous years,” said Reji. According to him, in April and May, the rakes were coming from other states carrying the civil supplies cargo, including grains. “They were being brought in from all over the country. We believe that with the Prime Minister announcing the extension of free food grains scheme, more rakes will start coming in. We believe that there will be an increase in the traffic,” he said.

At present, the rakes are coming and going to Bengaluru. According to a railway official, times are looking good for the Vallarpadam station. “In the entire fiscal year of 2019-20, ICTT saw only eight rakes coming. However, between April and June, the number of rakes that arrived at ICTT was 25. The number of wagons was 1,025 and the freight charges Rs 1,37,46,557,” said the official.

The Kerala Civil Supplies Corporation had used the container traffic for movement of pulses and edible oils. “Further, the decision to not levy haulage charges for the movement of empty containers had also boosted traffic movement,” he said. Inward traffic to Vallarpadam ICTT in 2019-2020 was just 7 rakes while between April and June 2020,  the number of rakes that arrived here is 21.

The bridge, which had been awaiting salvation for more than a decade, got a lease of life on January 23 when train service of coastal containers from Concor-Vallarpadam to ICD-Whitefield in Bengaluru was launched.The link from Edappally to Vallarpadam starts from Edappally and runs 3km parallel to an existing track until it reaches Vaduthala.

The rail line then passes via the Vembanad bridge through three small islands, including Idyakkara and Mulavukad islands, on Vembanad Lake to reach Vallarpadam. Over 80% of the bridge is built over water. Though several projects were mooted to utilise the tourism potential of Vallarpadam Rail Link, nothing materialised. Among the plan was a tourist train planned by the Indian Railways which was to have state-of-the-art vista dome coaches.

The link from Edappally to Vallarpadam starts from Edappally and runs 3km parallel to an existing track until it reaches Vaduthala. The rail line then passes via the Vembanad bridge through three small islands, including Idyakkara and Mulavukad islands, on Vembanad Lake to reach Vallarpadam. Over 80% of the bridge is built over water.