Coimbatore (CBE): The Southern Railway’s plan to build a skywalk to the Coimbatore junction to ease the congestion at the entrance might have to be put on hold. This is because the city’s Athar Jamaath Mosque Kabaristhan (cemetery) is yet to officially permit the railways to construct a small portion of the skywalk above the mosque land. If this permission does not come through, the installation of the skywalk to help commuters reach the platform 1A at the Coimbatore Railway junction from the State Bank Road is likely to be delayed or shelved.
Southern Railways had planned to construct a skywalk from the VIP and taxi parking lot to platform 1A, from where passengers can use the subways to reach any of the platforms. This is to decongest the front entrance of the railway junction. This skywalk was also supposed to be linked to the skywalk proposed by the Coimbatore Corporation over State Bank Road. This skywalk would make it easy for rail passengers to reach the bus stop opposite the station, removing congestion at the cross roads. However, a portion of the skywalk to the railway platform is designed to be built over the mosque land. “There is no construction over the land as such except two pillars,” said divisional railway manager, Salem division, Shubhranshu.
On January 28 this year, the mosque committee had given the railways verbal permission to construct the skywalk above their land. In exchange, the railways would construct a compound wall for them. However, a month later a new committee was elected in place. “This new committee is yet to give us written permission. They have been delaying it for months,” said Shubhranshu. Taking their word for it in January, the railways had also floated tenders for constructing two elevators to facilitate the use of the skywalk. The tenders expire in a week. If this written permission doesn’t come through this week, the tender expires.
On Thursday, the Railways made a formal request to the mosque for permission to construct the skywalk over their land. “It is for the benefit of the public, not the railways. It will go a huge way in decongesting the front entrance,” said the DRM.
Everyday, more than 20,000 passengers enter the railway station, of which 90% of them use only the front entrance making it heavily congested during peak hours, between 5am and 11am and again between 7pm and 10.30pm.
Mosque authorities however say that official permission for the construction would take at least another two to three months to come through. “No permission had been given earlier for the construction of the skywalk over our land. The executive body also does not have the power to give such permissions,” said the Athar Jamaath mosque president, A R Basheeruddin. “Approval can be given only by our general body which would meet only after Ramzan,” he added.
Division Railway Manager (DRM), Salem Division, Shubhranshu told reporters here on Wednesday that a tender for Rs. 2 crore has been floated for installing the skywalk with escalators.
“It will be stopped if the mosque authorities do not give the consent within a week,” he said. The DRM said that the work would be completed by the end of this year if they receive the consent of the mosque. He said that more than 20,000 commuters use the junction everyday and about 90 per cent of them use the front entrance. “The skywalk will help reduce sharing crowd thronging the junction,” he said.
He said that four more escalators have been sanctioned for Coimbatore junction – two for the skywalk and two for the subway. The existing two escalators at the subway operated only from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m. would be soon made operational round-the- clock.
After inaugurating two Automatic Ticket Vending Machines (ATVMs) for booking unreserved tickets at the junction as part of the Railway User Facilitation Fortnight, which is observed from May 26 to June 9, he said that the facility could be used by commuters to book tickets using a smartcard for Rs. 100. This includes Rs. 50 for the card and Rs. 50 for booking unreserved tickets.
There is a proposal for a separate counter to help commuters recharge the smartcards. Retired railway staff will help commuters without smartcard to get tickets from these ATVMs.
A technical snag was detected on the newly completed electrification of Coimbatore North to Mettupalayam by the Commissioner for Railway Safety, Southern Railways, during his inspection recently. “The repair works will be completed this weekend and the Commissioner will once again conduct an inspection before giving green signal for the electric line to be made operational,” the DRM said.
Mr. Shubhranshu said that Coimbatore Corporation has come forward to contribute Rs. 42 lakh for extension of the platform at Thudiyalur Railway Station.
The DRM said that they are awaiting funds for the Podanur to Pollachi gauge conversion and completing it was among the priorities of the division.