The section was closed in December 2011 for gauge conversion work.
CHENNAI: The New Year 2020 will witness resumption of train services on Madurai-Bodinaickanur section after a gap of nine long years. After the section was closed in December 2011 for conversion of the metre gauge section for 90 km, the work had been going on at a snail’s pace much to the chagrin of the people of Theni district and rail passengers.
However, with the Railway Construction Wing planning to complete the conversion work on Madurai-Usilampatti section by December, Madurai Division of Southern Railway has taken up Madurai yard modification work to provide link to the newly-laid Bodinaickanur BG line with Madurai junction.
The physical work of constructing eight major bridges on the section on the entire stretch and several minor bridges on Usilampatti section has been completed. The earth work and track laying work too have been completed. “We need to move the heavy machines on the tracks to pack the ballast to make the track worthy of operating trains. With the Madurai-Usilampatti section being an island without connectivity to Madurai, we need to connect it first, before taking up ballast packing machines,” a railway official said.
The work of providing link is laborious considering that a portion of BG railway track on the southern side of Madurai junction needs to be removed temporarily to connect the new track.
Madurai-Virudhunagar-Tirunelveli section is one of the major rail routes on which several trains are operated every day. “We need to do all engineering and signalling works with major trains running to their schedule both in the mornings and evenings. Hence, we have provided four hours of power block/line block each day for 10 days when these works have to be carried out,” a senior railway official said.
With 25KV overhead power cable running, it would become very risky to operate heavy machineries. Hence, power block was required. As preparatory work, three OHE posts were re-located to enable the new line converge with the two BG lines — the mainline and a shunting line. Besides, two points and crossings on the existing BG lines had to be relocated. The Railway Construction Wing has kept ready points and crossings assembly to save time.
“Every second is precious as the work has to be carried out in the limited period of line/power block,” another official said. A 70-member-strong trained work force with small machinery and heavy equipment like cranes and earth movers are kept ready.
After the Chennai-bound Guruvayur Express passed through the spot (near Ellis Nagar Bridge) on Monday, some 30 metres of railway track on the shunting line was removed within minutes as the men and machinery worked swiftly in tandem.
Besides cancelling several trains, the Southern Railway has partially cancelled many trains. While some trains were regulated, others were diverted through Manamadurai-Karaikudi-Tiruchi section.
“We know it would cause a lot of inconvenience to passengers. But, this is inevitable, for the work is only to bring additional train services on an additional route,” the engineer explained.
Railway officials have a plan of action to be carried out each day. “After the engineering work — like laying the track, points and crossings — the signal department will take up providing electronic signals, so that safe running of trains is ensured,” the engineer said.
Divisional Railway Manager V.R. Lenin said that two points and crossings on Madurai-Virudhunagar mainline and a shunting line required to be relocated to enable the linking of Bodi railway line. Besides, a new points and crossing assembly needed to be inserted to link the new line.
Along with this work, the Railway Division has taken up a task of replacing signal equipment that were six years old with a newer technology at a cost of ₹1.5 crore. “What we now have is linked with copper cables. This type of signals face higher rate of failures, especially due to lightning. We are replacing them with equipment that would be linked with optic fibre cables,” Mr. Lenin said. The new signalling system would ensure more reliability, he added. This would also take care of the doubling project under way between Madurai and Tirunelveli.
Mr. Lenin said that the Railway Division was yet to take a final call on the number of services to be provided on Madurai-Usilampatti section and further on Madurai-Bodi section. “It will be based on the patronage and demand,” he said.
According to a railway official Madurai yard will require a similar modification when the Madurai-Virudhunagar doubling work is completed. Besides, the yard needs a re-modelling to ensure simultaneous reception of trains from both Dindigul and Virudhunagar ends. Platform Number 6, which is shorter and has a deep curve, needs to be straightened and its length increased.
“As of now, it can only hold up to 18 coaches. Upon increasing the platform length, trains with 24 coaches can be run from that platform,” he added.