Short-haul rail services linking Ernakulam and its neighbouring districts have failed to grow with the rise in the number of people shuttling between districts for jobs.
Passengers say this can be solved if the railways rolled out more mainline electrical multiple unit trains (MEMU) and modified some services.
A regular on the Alappuzha-Ernakulam route, Suraj V., said there are no trains in the stretch for about five hours during evening peak hours, between 6.30 p.m. and 11.15 p.m. “We have been asking for a train that whistles off from Ernakulam at 8 pm, so that commuters need not make a mad rush to get a foothold on the passenger train at 6.30 pm.”
“Workers, salesmen are forced to hitch a ride in lorries and other vehicles at night to reach Alappuzha,” he said.
Another long-pending demand is to extend the Shoranur-Ernakulam train that reaches Ernakulam at 8 p.m., to Alappuzha. The train will be able to reach Alappuzha by around 10 pm. The same rake can begin its journey from Alappuzha at 5.15 a.m. and travel up to Shornur, through Ernakulam.
“We took the suggestion to the Zonal Railway Consultative Commitee in Chennai many times. They assured action, but nothing has happened so far, said president of the All Kerala Railway Users’ Association Paul Manvettom.
“The train’s extension (or a new train) will benefit thousands of commuters who don’t earn enough to afford a rented house in Ernakulam.”
Railway sources said the train must “ideally be stretched to Alappuzha”. But the station requires a proper maintenance yard and additional pit line. Mr Manvettom suggested the extension of the Ernakulam-Kottayam passenger train to Kayankulam, since this would benefit plenty of commuters who travel further south.
A high-ranking railway official said it was high time more short-distance trains were introduced between neighbouring districts so that the number of regional stops for express trains can be reduced.
“This will in effect increase train speed. Moreover, the pace on doubling the tracks must be stepped up so that more trains can be introduced. This will also decongest the highways.”
The Ernakulam-Thrissur MEMU service too is long awaited. A railway official said the agency was awaiting two MEMU rakes – for the Thrissur and Kollam-Nagercoil services. “They are expected to join our fleet shortly,” the official said.