KOLLAM: The rectification works on the newly constructed tracks along the broadened Kollam – Shenkotta rail route, as directed by the chief railway safety commissioner, is fast progressing. The track is expected to be commissioned by end of March, according to sources.
The safety commissioner had conducted safety inspection of the track last week and suggested changes including installation of concrete portals on the entrance of tunnels along the route and rectification of bridges connecting the tunnels.
The commissioner had also recommended ensuring implementation of speed restrictions. Before opening the route for train traffic, sufficient number of maintenance staff should also be recruited to ensure safety, the commissioner had said. The maximum permissible speed has been restricted to 30 kmph initially.
Under the New Aryankavu block, certain points and crossings have been suggested for realignment and the foundation of Girder Bridge is to be rechecked. Bridges should be provided with guard rails and ballast cushions. The recommendations were made after conducting speed test along the route by the commissioner.
The remaining works along the route had come to an end with the completion of packing works along the Edamon – New Aryankavu reach, after which the inspection was conducted. There are a total of 5 tunnels with a total length of 1.5 kilometers, 92 bridges, and a loop line for crossing at Thenmala.
The Railways also has plans to consider the proposal to declare the rail route as a heritage tourism route, taking advantage of its course through Western Ghats along Aryankavu – Punalur stretch. The major considerations will be nature tourism and heritage tourism as the route already consists of historical structures constructed by the British.
The rail route includes a heritage 13-arch bridge along the 45-kilometer-long railway line from Punalur to Shenkotta, commissioned in 1903. The bridge having 102.72 meters in length and 5.18 meters in height was constructed using the ancient Surki method by the British. It is now strengthened using concrete jacketing and the heritage look will be artificially created by fixing the walls with tiles resembling the old construction blocks.
New trains including Kollam – Velankanni exp-ress, Kollam – Thirunelveli passenger, Kollam – Shenkotta passenger, Kollam – Chennai Egmore express, and Kollam – Coimbatore passenger are expected operate along the new broadened track.
The meter-gauge rail service along the Punalur – Shenkotta stretch was stopped in September 2010. The stretch is part of the 325-km Kollam- Shenkotta -Tenkasi- Tirunelveli- Thi-ruchendur gauge conversion project carried out by the Indian Railways. The rail routes along Shenkotta-Thiruchendur and Kollam-Punalur sections have already been opened for rail traffic.