Punalur (PUU): On September 20, it will be five years since rail services on the 49.2-km Punalur-Shencottta section were withdrawn for gauge conversion work. But, the works have not attained the required pace causing hardships to commuters in the sector.
The same is the case of the recently allocated Rs.30 crore. The contractor entrusted with the vital portions of the work has not resumed the work for the past several months citing financial problems. Sources said the contractor from Tamil Nadu was a former railway employee and a section of officials was keen to grant him some grace period to resume the work.
This situation has created a yawning gap on the 93.2-km Kollam-Shencotta section, which is part of the 235-km Kollam- Punalur- Shencotta- Tenkasi- Tirunelveli- Thiruchendur section.
The line also provides a link to Chennai through Madurai and Trichy.
Gauge conversion on the Shencotta- Tirunelveli section which was taken up along with the Punalur-Shencotta section was completed in September 2012.
With the works dragging on, one of the vital links of the State with Tamil Nadu has remained severed for the past eight years.
Vegetables, groceries, flowers, and other rural products from Tamil Nadu used to be brought to Kerala through the line. Fish and coconut products from Kerala were transported to Tamil Nadu through the sector.
The gauge conversion work on the Kollam- Shencotta section was taken up in two phases – Kollam- Punalur and Punalur-Shencotta sections.
Works on the former section began in May 2007. Metre gauge services on the section were withdrawn on May 1 that year for facilitating the works.
But, it took three years to complete gauge conversion on the 44-km section and rail services were resumed to Punalur on May 12, 2010.