Saturday, April 4, 2015

Konkon Reise - Netravati to Sabarmati: Part X - Konkan Coast, Wild West of Western Ghats

On the way to Mumbai from Mangalore and while coming back to Udupi from Mumbai I travelled through Konkan Railways(KR). So I am dedicating this article to one of the finest engineering project independent India ever undertook.

Konkan is a narrow stretch of land between Western Ghats and Arabian Sea.This separation enabled Konkan Coast to develop its own culture over centuries. Nature blessed this beautiful land with many rivers, pristine beaches and wide forest cover.

Konkan Railway

I think I can rightly say Konkan railway project is one of the most challenging railway engineering work conducted in last century. To understand the importance of Konkon like, one need to look in to pre-Konkan railway map of India.

Just look at the alternate routes for a from Cochin/Mangalore to reach Mumbai in the 70s and 80s? One need to go faraway places like Chennai and Vijayawada to reach Mumbai. Its not only increase the journey time dramatically, but also the transportation of goods. By the way, road network connecting Mangalore to Mumbai was not in a good shape in those days.

Konkan is also probably one the handful of railway project undertook by Independent India. Majority of other rail routes were there from British time itself.

This 741km long train line - passes through Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka - connects Mumbai with Mangalore. Kerala is also one of the states benefited by this railway line. Commissioning Konkan rail significantly reduced the journey time from Malabar and Konkan coast to Mumbai and beyond.

You may be thinking what is the herculean challenge in creating a 741km broad gauge single line. In order to understand the complexity of the project, we need to look in to the geographic parameters.

Konkan Rail - Facts

This coastal strip is a narrow geographic area bounded by Western Ghats on the east and Arabian Sea on the west. Entire stretch is dotted with numerous fast flowing rivers, dense forest, paddy fields and mango trees.

Total route length - 760 KM

Number of Curves - 320

Deepest Cutting - 28 metres

Total Earth Work - 388.77mn cubic metre

Number of Stations - 59

Major Bridges - 179

Minor Bridges - 1819

Total No. of Road Crossings - 300

Longest Bridge - Across Sharavati River @ Honnavar - 2065.8 metre


Initial steps for this project was started in the early 70s. In fact first survey was conducted in between 1971-73; another one(Dasgaon to Ratnagiri) was completed in between 1975 and 1977; followed by another one (Roha to Mangalore) on 1984. In 1985 the scope was increased to cover the remaining length.

In 1977, then Railway minister Prof. Madhu Dandavate sanctioned the first stage from Apta to Roha, which was opened in March 1986. Then we saw further developments in completing the project when  George Fernandes became Railway Minister in 1989.

Based on the suggestions of then  Economic Adviser in the Finance Ministry - Bimal Jalan -  Konkan Railway Corp become a reality by including it in 1989 railway budget. E Sreedharan then Member Engineering and about to retire become the head of Corporation as Chairman and Managing Director (CMD). This time GoI let the beneficiary states - Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and Kerala - as partners in the project.

Konkan Rail Corp got four and half years to complete the project. Entire project was divided into seven (Mahad, Ratnagiri (north), Ratnagiri (south),  Kudal, Panaji, Karwar and Udupi) sectors each having a length of approximately 100km under a chief engineer.


In Goa, were KRCL engineers went out of their way to save maximum number of houses. It is because of this reason Goa has the maximum number of curves on alignment (even the Mandovi bridge is on a curve).

There are multiple interesting stories related to the project. For e.g. near Dasgaon (at the confluence of the Savitri, Kal and Nageshwari rivers) there was a burial ground, exactly on the Railway alignment between Dasgaon Tunnel (South face) and Savitri bridge. There was no way that the alignment could avoid this route, so Konkan Railway built another cremation ground for the villagers with a wide approach road, transplanting bones to the new location after conducting appropriate rites.

Anyone who worked on land acquisition project in India will understand how difficult to acquire land in populated areas. Here, Konkan Corp have to acquire a total of 4,850 hectares spread over 760 km. Many gave the land voluntarily; in return KRCL offered first preference to the land losers while recruiting or awarding commercial contracts.

Another problem was obtaining clearances for vast forest lands in Karnataka from MoEF (Ministry of Environment and Forests) and from other state and Central government agencies.

My Journey

I boarded Mumbai Express from Mangalore. For most of the time, I stood in the doors so as not to miss anything. Numerous rivers - small and big, paddy fields, bridges etc. However, by the time we reached Goa it was very much dark. So while coming back, again I stood on the doors so as not to miss anything on the Maharashtra side of Konkan.

As it was January end, temperature was high and most of the places were dry. I think I need to travel through Konkan once again - during Monsoon time.



1. Konkan Railway Corp

No comments:

Post a Comment