Railways plan to close the gates at the level crossing for a longer period on Uppalam Road which is very close to Puducherry Railway Station is a matter of concern. As per the railway safety norms, up to 120 metres of the railway track from the platform end where trains halt have to be kept free in case trains overshoot due to break failure or other technical reasons. The level crossing on Uppalam Road (LC 47) and LC 48 on Dubrayanpet Road is facing closure due to safety norms. Currently, railways is pitching for the closure of gates at LC 47.
However, closing the gates at LC 47 will have tremendous impact on the road traffic on the busy Uppalam road as vehicles will have to wait for at least 20 minutes every time a train is about to approach the station from Villupuram end. There are nine trains on some days and it would mean closure of gates that many times. The closure of gates could even be more than 20 minutes as the line will remain interlocked till the engine is detached and goes back to the yard.
There are educational institutions, port and tourism guest houses, and other offices on the road. It will throw traffic out of gear considering the fact that it is a busy road and will also cut the road traffic between north and south Puducherry during the time. It will be very difficult to address any emergency situations like fire accident or electricity breakdown if the gates are to be closed. Even the current closure of the LC 47 for less than five minutes for engine reversal causes sufficient backlog on the road.
Meanwhile, a railway team comprising more than 15 members headed by Ajay Kant Rastogi, divisional manager of Madurai, who is also holding additional charge as divisional railway manager of Trichy, inspected the level crossing along with government officials of Puducherry on Thursday.
During his visit, additional divisional railway manager Abdul Rehman told newsmen that after discussing with government nominated representatives, decision has been taken to interlock LC 47 and LC 48.
The railways suggested building a fly over or road over rail bridge as a technical solution to the problem. The railway divisional engineers insist that it is technically feasible to build a road over bridge in place of level crossing no 47 even though railway chief bridge engineers and the PWD officials had jointly inspected the site in the past and said that the site is unsuitable due to the proximity to six road junctions near water tank.
For the road over bridge construction,300 meters work has to be done from both sides. However, it is not economic as such a construction will cost between `30 and `50 crore. The railways will only bear the cost of around 30 metres on their land and the lion’s share of the burden will fall on UT government, which is reeling under financial crunch.
For the movement of two-wheelers and small vehicles, PWD suggested to widen narrow link road from Uppalam Road to Vambakeerapalayam road near LC 48. However, this solution will hold up cars, buses, trucks and other four-wheelers till the interlocking is unlocked.
The railways has accepted to postpone the interlocking arrangement till next year, and in the meantime the Government of Puducherry will have to widen the roads that will permit a bye-pass over the LC 48 near Electricity Department.
It is very doubtful if LC 48 is sufficient to handle the additional road traffic on Uppalam Road, as even the road is narrow, sources said.
In the last few years, the railways have been operating the trains without interlocking, but suddenly the railways felt the need to interlock for safety reasons.
“It has been discussed and there has been no conclusion on the subject. Everything has to be taken into consideration before a decision is taken,” said transport commissioner Sunderasan.
“We will have to divert the big vehicles near the water tank, while smaller vehicles will pass through Vambakeerapalayam road and use the small connecting road near stadium to reach Uppalam road and vice versa,” said traffic inspector Ravi Kumar.