CHENNAI: Southern Railway’s decision to revise the schedule of the hugely popular Rockfort Express, especially the Chennai-Tiruchi Rockfort Express (Train 12653), has drawn flak from city residents.
As per the new schedule, which would come into effect from November 1, the train’s departure time from Chennai Egmore has been pushed to 11.30 p.m. It will reach Tiruchi at 5.15 a.m. Currently, the train leaves Chennai at 10.30 p.m. and arrives here at 4.30 a.m.
Under the revised scheduled, the travel time of the train has been brought down to five hours and forty-five minutes instead of six hours.
“This is not a felt need and no one asked for speeding up as this is an overnight train. Although technically the train meets the super fast norm of 55 km per hour, it hardly offers any benefit to the passengers. Earlier, it was doing 53 km per hour,” says S. Pushpavanam, Secretary, Consumer Protection Council, Tamil Nadu.
Besides, with the super fast surcharge of ₹45 on AC classes and ₹30 on sleeper class, the passenger has to spend more and has to shell out taxi or auto fare to reach the railway station in unearthly hours, he contends.
Echoing similar sentiments, M. Sekaran, president, Air, Rail and Road Travellers Federation, said: “The move will adversely affect the interest of the passengers. In Chennai, public transport system is very limited after 10 p.m. and travellers will find it difficult to reach the railway station to board the train. Beside, a large numbers of passengers board the train at Mambalam and Tambaram. Under the new schedule, passengers would have to board the train at Mambalam at 11.45 p.m. and at midnight at Tambaram. This being a night train operated for the convenience of passengers, the change will only come as a nightmare.”
The Railways has not bothered to consult passengers or service associations before deciding to change the time, he regretted and appealed to the Chairman, Railway Board to consider the genuine grievance of the passengers. The revised schedule will badly affect the passengers as they will be able to sleep less than five hours on what is supposed to be an overnight train, said H. Ghouse Baig, a consumer activist.
Mr. Pushpavanam too felt that trains should be run for the convenience of passengers. “Passengers who have to pay much more for disturbed sleep are not likely to bless the Railways. I am afraid the Railways are working overtime to get a bad name for the present government as this move will affect patronage, which it can hardly afford,” observes Mr. Pushpavanam.
He demanded that the railway retain the trains as express service, forego the super fast surcharge and earn the goodwill of passengers.
Mainline section passengers complain many demands not met by Railways
The revised railway timetable which came into effect from November 1 has thrown a mixed bag for mainline passengers. While passengers welcomed few announcements, they rued that many of their demands like extensions, increase in frequency were not considered.
Welcoming the announcement of two new fully unreserved Antyodaya Express trains between Tambaram – Sengottai and Tambaram – Tirunelveli route via Kumbakonam, Thanjavur, they said both trains will be a boon to ordinary people.
Being fully unreserved, these trains will also be useful for those who cannot plan their travel in advance. If these two trains are operated with the same speed of other trains in this section, it will be a sure success, they said.
Vice-president of Thanjavur District Rail Users’ Association, A Giri while welcoming the speeding up of Rameswaram – Faizabad Shraddha Sethu Express in both directions between Rameswaram and Chennai, however, alleged that the Southern Railway was keen on diverting Mannai Express via Tiruvarur. He expressed hope that authorities would come out with a suitable solution to mitigate the problems of the passengers of high-ticket revenue yielding stations at Thanjavur and Kumbakonam before effecting the diversion of Mannai Express.
He also said that it has not considered the long-pending demand to operate Coimbatore – Mannargudi Chemmozhi Express as a link express up to Mayiladuthurai as it has patronage from Mayiladuthurai, Kumbakonam and Thanjavur passengers.
Similarly, another demand to operate the less patronised Puducherry – Mangalore Weekly Express via Kumbakonam and Thanjavur was not considered. Other demands such as increasing in frequency of Rameswaram – Tirupathi Express to daily, operating Puducherry – Kanyakumari Express via Madurai with an increase in frequency to three times a week; Trichy – Howrah Expresses via Mayiladuthurai for one day in a week and Mayiladuthurai – Mysore Expresses via Namakkal etc too were not considered.
Giri said the departure timings of all trains running via mainline from Chennai Egmore which have been advanced to facilitate the late arrival of chord line trains at Trichy, will put the passengers to great hardship on the mainline section, especially in Mayiladuthurai.
With the revised timings, Mannai, Kamban and Uzhavan Expresses from Chennai Egmore will reach Mayiladuthurai at odd hours like 2.15am, 3.33am and 4.13am respectively.