There is mounting concern that the vast tracts of land lying unutilised at the Harbour Terminus and Old Railway stations in the city will fall into wrong hands if the Railways does not renovate the stations.
The Railways is yet to include the proposals in its budget, despite demand from different quarters over the past many years. The availability of funds is not a problem since a good share of funds earmarked for Kerala’s railway development remains unused during most years.
The renovation of these stations that are located in Willingdon Island and behind the High Court would also decongest the two main railway stations in the city.
The land mafia eyes prime public lands like these to build concrete structures and try to usurp them with the help of corrupt officials, said the chairman of the Old Railway Station Vikasana Samity, M. R. Rajendran Nair. “Hence, it is high time the Railways paid heed to demand from members of the public and augmented amenities at these stations. It is sad to see that the Railways is silent on the issue, despite demand from leaders of different political parties.”
The Old Railway station can become a berthing terminal for select trains from Ernakulam Junction and Town stations. This would in turn decongest the two main stations, where there is paucity of platforms to accommodate trains.
Mr. Nair said that trains can take a turn from Edapally and establish a link with the station, if the rail lines are cleaned up. “The Railways’ revenue will increase if the valuable property is optimally used. It can also become a hub for short-distance trains. This will in turn encourage motorists to shift to trains, thus decongesting roads. It will also save fuel and lessen pollution in the city, especially when the work is on for the Kochi Metro.” He called upon the agency to shun its bureaucratic approach and adopt a democratic approach to revitalize the station.
Rejuvenation of the Harbour Terminus station will considerably decongest the Ernakulam Junction station, since it can become the terminal station for many trains that presently end their trip at the Junction. This will also be of immense help to people of West Kochi.
Thiruvananthapuram Divisional Railway Manager Rajesh Agarwal had said recently that there is no urgency in renovating the two stations, but the proposal could be considered in the future. To a question on the possibility of electrifying the city-Harbour Terminus rail line, he said that the Navy had expressed concerns about the safety of its flights if overhead lines were pulled adjacent to the airport.
Ernakulam Area Manager of Southern Railway P. L. Ashok Kumar said that signalling and communication systems have to be re-established in the harbour line. The staff who were withdrawn too will have to be posted back. On the inordinate delay in commissioning the Railway bridge to the island, he said it would be commissioned in March.
Mr. Ashok Kumar added that the Old Railway station in the city (built at the initiative of an erstwhile King of Kochi) can be developed as a passenger terminal. “Linking it with the two city stations will be tough. But it can host trains coming from Shornur.”
As for railway stations in the suburbs like Tripunithura and Kalamassery, there is persistent demand that more trains stop here. The demand to construct a halt station at Vytilla and a full-fledged railway station near the international airport at Nedumbassery are also gaining ground.
The Railways has demanded an exit through the airport, so that even members of the general public can gain access to the station. A senior airport official said that the matter has been taken up with the State government.