Kochi: A raging tug of war between the two administrative divisions of the Southern Railway zone has dimmed Kerala’s hopes of getting new trains.
The primary reason behind the raw deal being meted out to the state by the Railways is said to the absence of coordination between the Thiruvananthapuram and the Palakkad divisions.
The snail-paced decision-making by multiple approving authorities has poured cold water on several projects, that include the plans to extend Thiruvananthapuram-Palakkad Amrita Express to Madurai, the Palakkad division’s proposal to delink the Nilambur-Thiruvananthapuram Central Rajyarani Express and run as an independent train, and introduction of a new train on the Punalur-Plakkad route proposed by the Thiruvananthapuram Division.
It is alleged that the officials with the two divisions have made it a habit to dismiss each other’s proposals, jeopardizing the rail development requirements of the state.
The Thiruvananthapuram Division paid no heed to the Palakkad Division’s request to extend the Kozhikode-Thrissur Passenger to Guruvayur and the proposal to introduce a weekly train between Mangalore and Kochuveli.
The Palakkad Division has cited technical difficulties in implementing the proposal to extend the existing Punalur-Ernakulam train to Palakkad. The new train which was sanctioned following efforts from Kodikunnil Suresh MP, was originally introduced to operate between Punalur and Palakkad, but the Thiruvananthapuram Division made a proposal to extend it to Palakkad due to non-availability of platforms at Ernakulam to accommodate the train.
However, the authorities of the Palakkad Division have so far ignored the request saying that revision of time schedule for the new train would throw the rail traffic at the distribution point of Palakkad Junction out of gear. Extending the train to Nilambur is one of the solutions, but no efforts have been made to explore that option.
A year has passed since the completion of the much-awaited gauge conversion between Palakkad and Pollachi costing about Rs 450 crore, but the Thiruvananthapuram divisional authorities have so far refused to acknowledge the persistent demands to submit proposals seeking direct trains to Madurai and Rameswaram.
It was then the Palakkad Division made alternative proposals to extend the Thiruvananthapuram-Palakkad Amrita Express to Madurai and run the Nilambur-Thiruvananthapuram Central Rajyarani Express as an independent train, but the rail authorities in Thiruvananthapuram dismissed both the requests.
As per rules, the proposals seeking new trains need to be put forward by both the divisions to the Southern Railway headquarters in Chennai. According to highly-placed officials in the Railways, if a division submits a proposal for new a train connecting another division, it is mandatory to consult with the latter before giving the approval. At present, both the divisions refuse to accommodate new trains citing various reasons.
The Thiruvananthapuram divisional authorities expressed their firm objections to new trains in the wake of the two back-to-back rail incidents recently. Though the tracks had been re-laid after the mishaps, the concerned officials were rejecting fresh proposals by citing the minor accidents as an excuse, it is alleged.
The additional workload arising out of the introduction of new trains is said to be another reason for not entertaining new proposals.
Passengers in peril
It is the passengers who are put to untold hardship due to the inaction of the divisions and the lethargic attitude of the Southern Railway authorities, said Thrissur District Railways Passengers’ Association secretary P. Krishnakumar.
“It is high time the state government intervened in the issue. A proper mechanism should be put in place to coordinate the activities of the two divisions and exert pressure on the Southern Railway authorities to get the demands of the state addressed. Such an initiative will be detrimental to the proper development of railway facilities and the implementation of new projects,” he added.
According to various railway passengers’ associations, it is unfortunate that most of their persistent demands for new trains were not heeded by the railway authorities of the two divisions.
Take a look at the long-pending demands for new trains made by different railway passengers’ associations in the state:
1. Ernakulam-Salem Intercity
2. Kochuveli-Pondicherry weekly express
3. Ernakulam-Rameswaram weekly service
4. Kochuveli-Mangalore weakened service
5. Kochuveli-Hyderabad Express
6. Thiruvananthapuram-Bengaluru biweekly express
7. Thiruvananthapuram-Chennai weekend service
8. Ernakulam-Chennai weekend service
9. Thiruvananthapuram-Guwahati daily service
10. Ernakulam-Velankanni daily service
11. Ernakulam-Mumbai CST weekly express
12. New morning and evening train service up to Ernakulam to complement the Venad Express
13. Daily Jan Shatabdi Express between Thiruvananthapuram and Kannur
Proposals that are under consideration of the Railways, but are yet to get approval from administrative divisions:
1. Extension of Thiruvananthapuram-Palakkad to Madurai
2. Delinking of Nilambur-Thiruvananthapuram Central Rajyarani to run as an independent train
3. Punalur-Palakkad Express
4. Extension of Kozhikode-Thrissur Passenger to Guruvayur
5. Extension of Ernakulam-Kottayam Passenger to Kayamkulam