IR move to shift freight handling draws flak

The Indian railways (IR) decision to stop handling freight traffic at Puducherry Railway Station by converting the goods railway line into a passenger line and a platform has drawn flak from the customer affairs and the port. Many felt that the sudden plan to convert the freight line into a passenger line would hit the flow of freight.

However, the stoppage of the freight handling would have a direct impact on the transportation cost of foodgrains meant for Public Distribution System (PDS). The freight handling line has been used for transportation of foodgrains by the Food Corporation of India (FCI).

When the railway officials visited the Puducherry Railway Station, Department of Civil Supplies (which provides food security to the people of UT) had opposed the closure.

An official said, the Port Department had already spent `90 lakh in gauge conversion of the line linking railway station to the old port. Moreover, the railways have been approached to connect the line to the new port and have submitted a draft plan in this regard.

Once the mouth of the harbour is desilted, the movement of freight will start, the official added.

The railway officials justified the closure and contended that the goods train laden with foodgrains arrives at the station only once in a month and instead the line can be converted into a passenger facility to cater to the wants of new trains that were sanctioned in the railway budget. As an alternative, the railways have provided the facility at Chinnababusamudram Railway Station which is 16 kilometer (km) from Puducherry.

Director of Civil Supplies and customer Affairs, Mr. Mohammad Mansoor said, “The railway officials told us that the foodgrains transported can be stored in the FCI godown at Thiruvandarkoil. But, this will cause difficulty in logistics as well as in maintaining the quality of the foodgrains.

“We are planning to approach Chief Minister Mr. N Rangasamy against the railway’s move. Chief Minister will write to the Minister for Railways to drop the plan,” he added.

Meanwhile, a representative of the railway board suggested that the small VIP platform can be converted into a regular platform instead of converting the freight line. Presently, no VIPs are using the railways to travel to Puducherry as they prefer road or helicopter. Moreover, there is potential to increase the length of VIP platform, he added.

He pointed out that if they convert the freight line to a passenger line by adding a platform, there won’t be any space for spur lines (dead end lines) for parking of trains and pit facility for maintenance of trains, sanctioned in the railway budget for 5 consecutive years.