Demands for additional rail connectivity remain unfulfilled
Special trains being operated during festive season, says official
The demand for additional rail connectivity from Coimbatore, particularly to Bengaluru and to the southern districts of the State, continues to remain unfulfilled despite repeated representations for nearly a decade.
Recently, Coimbatore MP P.R. Natarajan wrote a letter to the General Manager of Southern Railway listing out the “primary need” for four train services from Coimbatore: a night train to Bengaluru, an inter-city express to Madurai, and restoration of express trains to Rameswaram (via Pollachi and Madurai) and Kollam in Kerala (via Pollachi and Tirunelveli).
Noting in the letter that the Ministry of Railways had announced an overnight train from Coimbatore to Bengaluru as early as in 2007, Mr. Natarajan said that the commuters are “experiencing much difficulties” due to the cost of travelling via road. “So, there is an urgent need for an overnight train facility to the Industrial City Bangalore from Coimbatore (sic),” he said in the letter.
Prior to the broad gauge conversion works that began in 2010 between Podanur and Dindigul, the express trains between Coimbatore and Rameswaram and Coimbatore to Kollam were operated via Kinathukadavu, Pollachi, Udumalpet, Palani and Madurai, the letter said. These suspended train services must be “given priority” in resuming its operations “at the earliest,” Mr. Natarajan said, as the route is the shortest for the “pilgrims and business community” of the Nilgiris, Coimbatore and the southern districts.
Another major demand in the letter was the intercity express between Coimbatore and Madurai. Noting the presence of temples and other tourist spots en route to Madurai in Palani, Dindigul, Tirunelveli, Rameswaram, Tiruchendur, Thoothukudi, Nagercoil and Kanyakumari, Mr. Natarajan said that if unveiled, the intercity express might also help in increasing the revenue for Southern Railway.
Echoing the above sentiment, railways activist S. Ravi said that the demand for the Coimbatore – Madurai intercity express has not materialised despite completion of the gauge conversion works. “Coimbatore – Madurai intercity express will be full for all 365 days,” he asserted, due to the existing demand for the route. Mr. Ravi also suggested developing Mettupalayam station as a terminal junction with adequate facilities and having train services between Mettupalayam and Madurai.
On the train services for Rameswaram, Mr. Ravi said that it was not even a new demand and that train services that existed before the gauge conversion must be restored. “Was the gauge conversion done to deprive the people of the existing trains?,” he questioned.
A senior railways official from Salem Division conceded that the above demands were long-standing and said that the division has been representing the issue to the officials at the Southern Railway headquarters in Chennai. “They (Southern Railway) have said that they would consider the demands, but we are not sure when the train services will be introduced,” said the official. For the time being, special trains during festive seasons are being operated to cater to the passengers’ demands, according to the official.
Regarding the demand for overnight train services to Bengaluru, the official said that the Bengaluru railway station currently could not accommodate an additional train due to the number of existing train services. “Terminal train services tend to take about an hour at the stations,” the official noted, adding that this remains the reason for operating only day time train services to Bengaluru.
Other demands put forth by Mr. Natarajan to the Southern Railway include making the special passenger trains currently running between Coimbatore and Pollachi (Train No. 06083/84, 06085, 06708, 06709/10) as permanent trains; adjustment of departure timings of Train No. 22668 Nagercoil Express train and Train No. 22670 Tuticorin Express train so that passengers may reach the destinations in the mornings and increased train services between Coimbatore and Mettupalayam to cater to the needs of office-goers, students, labourers and pilgrims.
Apart from train services, Mr. Natarajan also highlighted the pending renovation works at the Coimbatore railway station causing inconvenience to the passengers.
The three issues mentioned in the letter are the incomplete status of the escalator, oozing of rain water during rainy season and lack of adequate elevators to aid the senior citizens.
Responding to this, the official said that the construction of the escalator for Platforms 1 and 2 met with a glitch and had to be halted briefly, adding that the escalator will be operational by October 15. The official said that construction works for additional elevators has started.
Regarding the oozing of water during rain, the official said that it is a “major work” and that the Engineering Department of the station is attempting to tackle the issue without disturbing the ongoing works and the passengers at the station.
Infrastructure at the Podanur Junction must be improved to make it the second railway terminal in the city, a member of Divisional Railway Users Consultative Committee (DRUCC) has said. N. Subramanian, a DRUCC member, placed the demands at a meeting held at the Salem Division headquarters on July 25, a press release said.
“The needs of the people of Coimbatore cannot be fulfilled by Coimbatore Junction alone,” he said, requesting the railway administration to develop the Podanur Junction “on par with” the Coimbatore railway station.