Demand grows for doubling of Madurai – Kanyakumari section

Madurai (MDU): The long-pending demand by the rail users seeking doubling of the section between Madurai and Kanyakumari was once again stressed ahead of the forthcoming railway budget. The rail users say that the doubling would help growth in the region.

In fact, in the 2012-13 budget the railway ministry announced that a survey had been carried out to double the section and the railway board had sent the project to the planning commission for approval. The project of doubling the 276 km also includes Vanchi Maniachi – Tuticorin section. The rate of returns of the project is estimated to be 8.095 % which is a favourable according to the rail users’ forum from the region. They urged that the interim railway budget to be submitted in the Parliament should sanction funds for the project. The forums have started petitioning the railway board and ministry in this regard.

P T K A Balasubramanian from divisional rail users consultative committee and president of Sattur Chamber of Commerce said that operating more trains to the southern region will remain in the paper without taking up this doubling project. Even if the entire stretch could not be doubled in the coming budget, the section between Madurai – Virudhunagar has to be completed. Trains coming from three directions – Tirunelveli, Tuticorin and Shencottah – converge in Virudhunagar and the section suffocates with traffic due to over utilisation. “Unless this bottleneck of Madurai – Virudhunagar is cleared in the first place, more trains to the region are not possible at all,” he reasoned.

P Edward Jeni, secretary of Kanyakumari District Rail Users Association (KKDRA) said that if the project is completed it will boost the entire economic growth of the region. “The southern region has sound academic growth but lags behind in industrial development. The doubling will help the industrial growth of the area,” he pointed out. Besides, the travel time between Chennai and Kanyakumari can be reduced greatly. At present it takes 13 hours between these destinations which will come down to seven to eight hours, Jeni mentioned.

Meanwhile, Colachel MLA, J G Prince has petitioned the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh to implement the project. Doubling work has been undertaken on the Chennai – Madurai section already and if Madurai – Kanyakumari is approved in the coming budget, the entire section may be completed by 2016. In addition to operating more trains, the doubling will be useful to support the freight movement of Tuticorin port and the upcoming ports at Colachel and Vizhingam. It is also required to cater the freight movement from the upcoming special economic zone at Nanguneri in Tirunelveli district and to accommodate the growing demand from people working at the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant and the Mahendragiri unit of ISRO, Prince observed in his petition.

But the rail users are also suspicious that if the interim budget will concentrate on such massive project. S P Jeyapragasam of Tamil Nadu Foodgrains Merchants Association Limited said that it is doubtful. “At the maximum, we can expect more funds sanctioned for the ongoing doubling between Chennai – Madurai section,” he said.