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Updated: September 11, 2011 10:59 IST

Opposition to track-doubling intensifies

V. S. Palaniappan
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Railways call for tenders to conduct survey for the line

The continued diversion of trains on the Irugur - Podanur - Irugur section, skipping Coimbatore Junction, has resulted in a strong opposition to the move of the Southern Railway to conduct a Preliminary Engineering-cum-Traffic Survey for doubling the Podanur-Irugur section.

The Union Railway Budget presented in the Lok Sabha in February 2011 had a mention about conducting a survey to assess the feasibility for doubling the Podanur-Irugur section (10.77 km).

The Southern Railway has issued an advertisement calling for tenders for the conduct of the survey at a cost of Rs. 1 lakh.

R. Raveendran of Residents Awareness Association of Coimbatore observed that the proposed doubling will only result in Coimbatore being dumped altogether by Southern Railway by diverting all the important trains on the Podanur-Irugur-Podanur section after the completion of the doubling work. The railways took a record time to complete the Coimbatore-Coimbatore North-Irugur railway line.

It was nearly a two-decade long wait for doubling the 17 km section. The project had an initial estimate of Rs 38 crore. But when completed, the cost escalation had taken the total cost of the project to Rs 60 crore, secretary of Coimbatore Rail Users Association S. Vaidyanathakrishnan said. The capacity utilisation (pathway congestion) of the Coimbatore-Coimbatore North-Irugur line before doubling work was 110 per cent and according to railways, in the post doubling scenario it had come down to 84 per cent.

S. Ravi disputed the contention of the railways and said that the percentage looked inflated so that it could be an excuse to refuse diversion of trains via Coimbatore. He contended that the present capacity utilisation of both the lines should be only 60 to 65 per cent.

The second line here remained underutilised with trains continuing to skip Coimbatore. Mr. Ravi wanted the trains to be routed via Coimbatore to benefit passengers and turn the Podanur-Irugur single line into a dedicated freight corridor.

He added that running trains via Coimbatore would only result in 20 minutes of additional running time for trains.

Even with a single line on the Podanur-Irugur-Podanur section with a capacity utilisation of 91 per cent (more than 80 per cent was considered saturation limit), the railways was diverting 13 pairs of trains (weekly, tri-weekly, bi-weekly, daily and even special trains) away from Coimbatore Junction. Most of the new trains or special trains were being routed only via Podanur-Irugur neglecting Coimbatore, he added.

General secretary of Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam K. Ramakrishnan asked when 13 pairs of existing trains and all new trains skipped Coimbatore using the Podanur-Irugur line, where was the necessity for hurriedly laying the second line?

Let the authorities first divert all the trains and think of doubling the line, he said. Coimbatore Railway Passengers Welfare Association president Jameel Ahmed urged the Railways to divert at least the trains being operated to places such as Puducherry, Mangalore, Ernakulam, Thiruvananthapuram, Bangalore and Chennai via Coimbatore.

Railway sources, on conditions of anonymity, dismissed these apprehensions as unfounded and said that whenever a line was being over-utilised, the Railways had a standard operating procedure of taking up those sections for doubling work.

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