This rail link was the brainchild of Praja Socialist Party leader Nath Bapu Pai, who mooted it first in the 1960s. Former railway ministers George Fernandes and Madhu Dandavate then refined the concept, but it was only after the Southern Railway presented a final location survey report in 1988 that the Konkan Railway was established as a separate entity. E Sreedharan, who was made its managing director, started the project from scratch as no survey data was available for the proposed stretch in Maharashtra – half the length of the line. Land acquisition in the absence of rational compensation laws for the fertile Konkan tracts and the slopes of the Sahaydris added to the hurdles.
The Konkan railway line was constructed in a record time of eight years. Better still, funds for this project were gathered together without making any demands on the central government’s coffers. Konkan Railway is still in the growth and expansion phase, with efforts ongoing since 2015 toward doubling the tracks and their electrification. The 740-km-long link between Mumbai and Mangaluru passes through Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka, offering spectacular views. It’s a constant challenge, though, to keep the line operable through 91 tunnels, 129 bridges and 4,000-plus mm of rainfall.
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When the project began, tax-free public bonds were issued to raise money for construction. Today, the finance industry has taken interest, especially in funding upgradation work which began in 2015 and is expected to cost about Rs 11,000 crore. Financially stable, Konkan Railway makes a net profit from its regular operations. “Our operating ratio is 80 per cent (spending 80 paise to earn a rupee),” says chairman and MD Sanjay Gupta. “We also have the Jammu and Kashmir railway project and two NTPC projects that enables us to raise revenues.”