The piecemeal budgetary allocation in the Railway budget for the much-delayed line-doubling/electrification works to the north and south of Ernakulam has drawn flak from passengers.
The decision to exclude Kerala from the southern freight corridor has also been cited as a major omission, especially since at least 10 additional goods trains would be needed daily to transport containers from Ernakulam, once the Vallarpadam container transshipment terminal is commissioned a few months from now.
The reluctance of the Railways this year to begin a second daily train to Bangalore (from Thiruvananthapuram/Ernakulam) and to increase the frequency of weekly trains to the IT hub from the two cities, too has drawn widespread criticism.
The pressure exerted by operators of luxury buses from prominent towns in the State to Bangalore is being cited as the reason for the Railways’ unwillingness to introduce a daily train.
The fate of the Mumbai-Ernakulam Duronto Express that was announced in Wednesday’s budget is uncertain, since the Ernakulam-New Delhi Duronto Express mentioned in the previous budget is yet to begin service.
Railway sources said that the it is yet to earmark a rake (a set of coaches and engine) for the Delhi-bound train. “Its time schedule too has to be finalised at the inter-railway timetable committee meeting.”
The five-day-a-week Kozhikode-Thiruvananthapuram Jan Shatabdi Express through Kottayam would bring relief to commuters from the State’s three major cities and nearby districts, who do not have a fast-enough train to commute through Kottayam and Pathanamtitta. The proposed Pune-Ernakulam bi-weekly express would provide enhanced connectivity between the two IT hubs.
The Mainline Electric Multiple Unit (MEMU) service linking Ernakulam with Kollam will bring some respite to daily passengers and others who now travel in crowded trains.
There is huge demand for such trains which gain speed and also slow down fast, even from northern districts.
The general convenor of the Action Council for Railway Development in Kerala, Mathew Paul said that the Railways must modernise its signal system like in Mumbai, so that trains can ply one after the other, even along the existing rail lines. “As of now, a train has to wait for the signal till the train ahead distances itself by two stations. With technology getting cheaper, the cash-rich Railways must act on this in densely-populated Kerala, where land acquisition is tough.”
He blamed MPs from the State and the State government for airing their demands just a month before the budget. “By then, all the paperwork and planning for the budget got over. They should have acted at least in October-November last year. It is sad that the State was unable to utilise even half of the Rs.320 crore funds earmarked in the 2009 budget.”
An office bearer of the Railway Passengers’ Association Johny Thottakara said that five of the eight trains mentioned in the previous budget are yet to begin service.
“The proposed railway station at Nedumbassery does not find mention in the budget.”