Forestland bordering rail lines in Thiruvananthapuram & Palakkad Divisions turn out to be of major Safety concern

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Over 45,000 trees in the private, railway, and forestland bordering the railway corridors under the Thiruvananthapuram and Palakkad railway divisions are turning out to be a major safety concern for Railways.

With Railways unable to cut the branches of these trees ahead of monsoon, the authorities are worried that the trees or branches would fall on the railway track or the overhead 25 kV electric traction wires, jeopardising train services.

Over 10 hours was taken to clear the track and restore services after a coconut tree and a jackfruit tree fell on the track on Sunday evening near Mayanad station on the Ernakulam-Thiruvananthapuram Central section.

Train services were also affected following uprooting of trees between Mahe-Vadakara and Parappanangadi-Kadalundi sections under the Palakkad division this week. Damage to railway property and equipment in these instances came to several lakhs.

75% in private land

Of the 45,465 trees identified for cutting in the two divisions in view of the threat posed to smooth train operations, 35,921 are in Thiruvananthapuram and 9,544 in Palakkad divison. As much as 75% of the trees in Thiruvananthapuram is in private land. Of the 11,658 trees identified in Palakkad, the authorities cut 2,114 on May 18.

Thirteen incidents of trees falling on railway track have been reported since April in the Palakkad division. Shoranur-Nilambur is the most affected section. Two instances were reported in Podanur-Palakkad stretch, one in Palakkad-Shoranur, one in Shoranur-Kozhikode, three in Kozhikode-Kannur and one in Padil-Jokkatte stretch.

The reluctance of property owners near tracks to cut trees leaning towards the tracks is a major hurdle, a railway official said. High compensation fixed by the Revenue Department and the inability of Railways to pay it lead to delays. The compensation for over 2,000 trees that were cut down years back in Thiruvananthapuram division is yet to be disbursed, the official said.

Under Section 151 of the Railways Act of 1989, Railways have the right to remove all trees — even if on private land — found unsafe for train movement. But local people have opposed Railways’ efforts to remove such trees.

In one instance, the owner approached judicial forums citing trespass after Railways cut down a tree from the private property.

Railways have powers to claim damages from the property owner if trees on private land fall on the track or traction wires.