Passengers say Union Ministers, MPs from State must wrest Kerala’s share from the railways and raise demand to augment amenities, operate more trains from Ernakulam
With time ripe for demanding Kerala’s share in the railways’ 2014 budget, passengers’ associations and people’s representatives have listed out numerous long-pending demands which were hitherto not heeded to.
Reminding that people’s representatives and MPs from the State can work wonders to get what is rightfully due for Kerala, the general secretary of All Kerala Railway Passengers’ Association Mathew Paul spoke of how the railway line through Alappuzha was constructed about 20 years ago following an agitation spearheaded by senior Congress leader V.M. Sudheeran.
“Currently, the State risks losing a major chunk of assets of Palakkad Railway Division despite having eight MPs from Kerala in the Union government. Track doubling, increasing coaches in existing trains and introduction of new express and short-distance trains have suffered because MPs and Union Ministers from Kerala have either become ‘yes men’ of powers that be at the Centre, or are plain lethargic.”
“Even the British did more justice to the State as can be seen from how Harbour Terminus and Ernakulam Railway Goods (ERG) yard (also called Old Railway Station) were established. The railways says fund crunch is stopping them from reviving the ERG station despite the station building and track up to Pachalam being intact.”
With track doubling suffering delays, Mr Paul demanded introduction of automatic signalling in busy corridors so that trains can ply more frequently within a specific time span. Since many coaches of express trains are near-vacant, the railways must allot space for short-distance passengers. Earmarking at least five unreserved coaches in each train would encourage bus commuters to travel in trains, he said.
P. Rajeev, MP too demanded steps to renovate ERG station so that it could be converted into a hub for suburban/MEMU trains, thus decongesting Ernakulam Junction and Town stations. The Ernakulam Area Manager of Southern Railway P. L. Asok Kumar said the initial cost of renovating the ERG station and rail lines works out to Rs 300 crore. “The project would be feasible if the State government steps in with help. But for Navy’s objection to electrifying the railway line south of Thevara, the line up to Harbour Terminus can easily be electrified, thus providing an impetus to the underutilised station.”
On upgrading Ernakulam Junction station into international standards as promised over a decade ago, Mr Rajeev pointed out that work had not begun though tender process began in 2007. Many platforms do not have proper roof and chairs.
Stations in suburbs
Reiterating the demand for enhancing amenities at Kalamassery and Tripunithura stations, he said more trains must be allotted stops because commuting to city stations is becoming tougher due to metro rail works. He further demanded augmenting freight-handling facilities at Kalamassery station.
The railways has gone back on the promise of augmenting amenities at Tripunithura railway station and tar coating its approach road by May despite an assurance by Divisional Railway Manager Rajesh Agrawal.
Sources said developing stations in city suburbs and allotting stops for more trains will be taken up based on the revenue from each. Interestingly, the railways has not even readied a proposal for any of these.
On the long-pending demand for a daily train from Kerala to Guwahati, sources said this can be done, provided coaches are made available by the Southern Railway. “The whopping demand to introduce another daily train to Bangalore too has to be looked into and the timings worked out.”
The other long-pending demands of commuters include MEMU services to Kochi from Thrissur, Palakkad, Kottayam and Alappuzha and a morning Jan Sathabdhi Express from Kochi to Trivandrum via Alappuzha. They have for years been demanding two more passenger trains to Kollam – one through Kottayam and another through Alappuzha since commuters have to wait till midnight after the last passenger train to Kollam leaves Ernakulam at 6 p.m.. Yet another demand is to extend the 8 p.m. Ernakulam-Kottayam passenger train up to Kayamkulam.