Kochi: The local area rail service, linking Aluva, Ernakulam Town, Ernakulam Junction and Tripunithura railway stations, will start operations on June 21, that too with an air-conditioned coach, a first in the country.
Railway minister Suresh Prabhu will flag off the diesel electric multiple unit (DEMU) service from Ernakulam Junction railway station, officials said.
The plan to start such a service including the revival of the abandoned old railway station and Harbour Terminus station was mooted by various organisations including the media earlier. A senior official with the Thiruvananthapuram railway division said that the public demands prompted officials to fast-track the project.
“The Demu rake with the AC coach is ready for use in Chennai. Earlier, it was said that the Demu rake for Thiruvananthapuram would be ready by July-end. Thanks to the Railway Board, our project has been approved on a war-footing. An AC coach, the first to be used in a local service, has also been allotted,” said a source with the railway division.
The Demu rake will have eight coaches — two driving power cars (DPC), two trailing cars for vendors (TCV) and four trailing cars, including an air-conditioned one. While 86 passengers can travel in DPC (52 seating, 34 standing), 343 passengers can travel in a TCV (97 seating, 246 standing). A trailling car (TC) can carry up to 314 at a time (96 seating, 218 standing). The AC coach will have a seating capacity of 96.
As per the tentative timetable prepared, the Demu service will start from Ernakulam Junction at 6am and end at 8.30pm at the same station. The day’s first trip will be to Tripunithura and the last between Angamaly and Ernakulam Junction. The Demu will be a shuttle service running between Aluva-Ernakulam North-Ernakulam Junction-Tripunithura. In the evening, there will be single services to Angamaly and Piravom Road.
“We are yet to finalise the timetable and ticket rates. This is the first time an AC coach is being used in a local service. Ticket rates will be fixed by the Railway Board,” the source said. Mumbai has been demanding a complete AC train on its suburban route.
It is reliably learnt that there will be four shuttle services between Aluva and Tripunithura stations. The travelling time between Aluva and Tripunithura will be 45 minutes. The ticket fare in normal coaches will be the same as that of passenger trains.
The AC coach, to be located in the middle of the rake, has been furnished on the lines of AC intercity express trains. The air-conditioned coach will have a capacity to seat 73 passengers.
All coaches are equipped with environment-friendly bio-toilets.
The Demu service will be the first step in the original plan to introduce local area service network, connecting Aluva, Ernakulam Junction, Ernakulam Town, Tripunithura, Ernakulam Railway Goods (ERG) station (the old railway station located behind the Kerala High Court) and the Cochin Harbour Terminus Station (CHTS).
The CHTS will be ready for the Demu service in four months.
“We have tracks, platforms and the signalling system at CHTS. In the beginning, passengers will not have many modern facilities at CHTS. However, once the service starts, everything will fall in place. But, it will take at least six months to start service to ERG as we have to reconstruct the entire 1.5-km stretch from the mainline. The renovation of the dilapidated railway station building will be done simultaneously,” said a railway source.
For ERG, authorities first plan to run a light engine after the tracks are ready. They will then operate parcel services from ERG to check the safety of tracks. “Once it’s safe, we will approach the Commission of Railway Safety (CRS),” a senior official said.
A new track can be used for passenger movement only after CRS certification. Earlier, authorities had plans to electrify the tracks between ERG and the mainline as well as the 7-km-long Ernakulam Junction-CHTS stretch to introduce the Memu service.