Metre gauge line had existed till the mid -1980s when the rail services were stopped
The Karaikal-Peralam rail link is all set to be restored with the Railway Board according sanction to the detailed estimate for laying the line in this section falling under the limits of Tiruchi Railway Division.
The Railway Board, New Delhi, has sanctioned ₹177.69 crore for laying the 23-kilometre new line from Karaikal to Peralam as material modification to the gauge conversion of Tiruchi – Nagore – Karaikal section thereby setting the stage for implementation of the project.
An official communication from the Railway Board sanctioning funds for providing the rail link has already been communicated to the Southern Railway General Manager as well as to the Chief Administrative Officer – Construction, Southern Railway.
While sanctioning funds, the Railway Board has specified the department-wise break up of the project cost under which a sizeable chunk of ₹136.60 crore is meant for Civil Engineering works. The cost for Signal and Telecommunication works would be ₹ 22.65 crore with ₹ 9.73 crore meant for yard arrangements at Peralam.
A metre gauge line had originally existed from Karaikal to Peralam via Tirunallar till the mid -1980s when the rail services were stopped and the track dismantled. Rail travellers in and around Karaikal region had for long been seeking the restoration of the line via Tirunallar – housing the famous shrine of Lord Saneeswara and attracting devotees from all over the country.
The rail travellers wanted the restoration of the line as it would be a shorter and direct route to Karaikal from Mayiladuthurai and Peralam instead of taking a detour via Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam and Nagore which is the case at present.
With the funds having been sanctioned, the preliminary works connected with the project is expected to kick-start soon. Railway officials say tenders for earthwork and bridges would be floated in a couple of months. The line would pass via Tirunallar and Ambagarathur.
The extent of earth that would be required for the project, the number of major and minor bridges along the route besides the number of level crossing gates would all be compiled before floating the tender. The work would be executed by the Southern Railway Construction Organisation which has carried out broad gauge conversion works in the Mayiladuthurai – Tiruvarur – Tiruthuraipoondi – Pattukottai- Karaikudi section.
Officials say land acquisition by and large may not be required for the project as a metre gauge track was already in place from Karaikal to Peralam. The sanction of funds for the project fulfils the long pending demand for the implementation of the project, says V.R. Dhanaseelane, president, Karaikal District Rail Users Welfare Association. The Southern Railway Construction Organisation should try to complete the project in a year as it would pave the way for early rail connectivity to the temple town Tirunallar, he added.
This metre gauge branch line between Peralam Junction and Karaikal was approved for construction by French India during December 1895. The French government invested about 1,201,840 (approximately ₹1.51 crore for the construction, which was done by the then Great South Indian Railway (which was later merged with South Indian Railway Company) and opened on 14 March 1898. This line provided rail connectivity to Karaikal port and transfer of goods through rail into British India, as this line would give further connectivity to Mayiladuthurai Junction, which falls on the main line. Cement, fertilisers, tiles, timber, kerosene oil, rice, wheat, grains, pulses and paddy were the main goods involved in traffic. Raw materials like pressed cotton and coal for textile mills and iron billets for Pondicherry Rolling Mills were brought in, processed and the finished product was supplied all over the country. Though the goods traffic density fared better, the passenger traffic slumped and services were called off except the rolling stock.