Railway Budget dashes hopes of Madurai-Kollam via Shencottah

MDU DivisionMadurai (MDU): Even as the Railway Budget gives hope of earlier completion of the Shencottah-Punalur gauge conversion project with an allocation of Rs. 85.69 crore for the fiscal, it has once again disappointed rail users of Theni district with a paltry allocation of Rs. 10 lakh for Madurai-Bodinaickanur gauge conversion project.

Madurai Divisional Railway Manager Sunil Kumar Garg hoped that funds would not be a constraint for gauge conversion on the ghat section of Shencottah-Punalur. “If they are able to do more work, I think the project could get more funds,” he said.

Stating that the 49.38-km-project required a total of Rs. 340 crore for completion, he said, “At this rate of allocation of funds, the project could be completed in three to four years.”

The lack of direct link between Madurai and Kollam, via Shencottah, had forced the passengers to take a circuitous journey, via Tirunelveli, Nagercoil and Thiruvananthapuram. “When implemented, the project will reduce the travel time between Madurai and Kollam by at least six hours,” he said. Besides, the project will be able to give a direct rail link from southern Tamil Nadu to Konkan Railway.

The budget had dashed all the hopes of people of Theni to have their only rail link (Madurai-Bodi) back soon with a meagre allocation. The railway has so far spent only Rs. 13.86 crore for the project, costing Rs. 245.98 crore, ever since it was sanctioned in 2009-10, a railway source said.

The Dindigul-Pollachi-Palghat and Pollachi-Coimbatore gauge conversion project, which is likely to be completed by March 2016, has got a fillip with a good allocation of Rs. 100 crore.

The DRM said that 34 level-crossings in the division would be eliminated by way of constructing subways.

Five level-crossings would be replaced with road over bridges.

Mr. Garg said that augmenting of express trains with two more coaches (making it a total of 26 coaches) was not possible for the trains in the division for lack of adequate length of platforms. “The lower hauling power of engines is another constraint,” he said.

Additional Divisional Railway Manager R.V.B. Babu was present.