The Vallarpadam rail link, constructed exclusively for transporting containers to and from the International Container Transshipment Terminal (ICTT), had never been utilised to its fullest ever since its commissioning in February 2011.
However, things took a turn for the better for the 4.62 km-long bridge yesterday (22nd January 2020) with the launch of the train service of coastal containers from CONCOR-Vallarpadam to ICD-Whitefield in Bengaluru. Rejo Peter, the terminal manager of CONCOR, said the service through the link, which was the longest rail bridge in the country until recently, was launched in association with DP World.
“Until now, containers were moved via road and the rail link remained under-utilised even though transporting containers via rail route is more economical,” he said. The lukewarm response of customers also didn’t help matters, he said. Now, CONCOR has decided to go all out in promoting the use of the Railways’ freight service, said Rejo. “We are planning rigorous marketing programmes. We would like to highlight to prospective customers the fact that railways’ freight service is more economical than road transport,” said Rejo, adding, “Rather than concentrating on revenue, we, at present, want to build the market and make it a regular thing.”
A Railway official said the service is being operated using the freight container rake. “Each rake will be able to transport 40 containers between Vallarpadam and Whitefield,” he said. Recalling how a few services were operated since the bridge’s commissioning, the official said, “The train services were stopped after CONCOR didn’t find the route economical. Services were being conducted once or twice a month.”
According to the official, CONCOR had said they might be interested in using the rail link if a rationalised fare system was applied. “So, as per the latest arrangement between the Railways and CONCOR, the customer will only have to pay freight charges from the serving station to the culminating station along with siding charges. Earlier, the customer had to pay the freight charges and the tariff charged to transport the containers to their place,” he said. “Now, we are expecting the rail link will be used regularly or at least once a week,” said the official.
The rail link is India’s second longest rail bridge and fifth longest bridge. The link from Edappally to Vallarpadam starts from Edappally running 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. 80% of the bridge is built over water.
Though several projects had come up to utilise the tourism potential of Vallarpadam Rail Link, none could make much impact. Among them was a tourist train planned by the Indian Railways which was to have state-of-the-art vistadome coaches. Recently inaugurated, Bogibeel bridge is now the longest railway bridge in India (4.94 Km). It connects Dibrugarh in Assam to Naharlagun in Arunachal Pradesh.