Passengers and residents’ associations expressed outrage at Tuesday’s Railway budget and held Union Ministers from the State as being primarily responsible for Kerala being denied its due.
That Ernakulam, the State’s commercial hub, has been left out of the budget, has increased their ire. “The ineptitude of eight Union Ministers from the State and the MPs in ensuring our share of Railway development is shameful,” said P. Rangadasa Prabhu, the president of the Ernakulam District Residents Associations’ Apex Council (EDRAAC). “Commuters have been completely let down at a time when mass rapid transport systems like the railway are the need of the hour. This leaves one wondering what elected representatives do (in New Delhi),” he said.
Old Railway Station
As far as Kochi is concerned, the Railways has turned its back once again to the concerted demand to renovate the Old Railway Station located behind the High Court as a terminal for short-distance trains. Neither was there any mention of revitalising the under-utilised Harbour Terminus Station in Willingdon Island.
No word in the budget about the unfulfilled promise of converting the Ernakulam Junction and Town stations into world-class ones either. The overbridges envisaged over a decade ago at the crowded Atlantis, Eroor, Vaduthala and Pachalam level crossings too are non-starters.
The general secretary of the All Kerala Railway Passengers’ Association, Mathew Paul, said that Kerala will continue to be neglected by the Railways till it gets a railway zone. “The track doubling and electrification on the Kanyakumari-Mangalore stretch is crucial for speeding up railway development across the State. Under the current pace, it will take another 25 years to complete the process.”
He expressed shock and disbelief that there was no new train from the State to Bangalore, and the refusal of the Railways to increase the frequency of the existing weekly trains to the IT hub. “The lakhs of migrant labourers from States in the east and north-east too have been ignored in the budget. They will have to travel like animals to their home States from Kerala.” Mr Paul alleged that funds worth crores of rupees that were earmarked for Kerala lapse each year because of the tardy pace of rail works. The funds are then diverted to divisions in neighbouring States.
Merchant bodies too have protested against the raw deal meted out to Kerala in the Railway budget.
It is disappointing for Kerala, said K.N. Marzook, chairman of the Kerala Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “We are concerned at the announcement that freight charges would be increased in tune with the hike on fuel price.”
Even while protesting against the denial of new trains and development projects for Kerala, the Kerala Merchants’ Union welcomed the steps proposed to ensure passenger safety and hygienic food.
The Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry too has deplored the denial of new trains to Kerala.
The Cochin Chamber of Commerce and Industry welcomed the thrust on cleanliness and better amenities for passengers. It also welcomed the proposed introduction of a pilot project to let passengers contact housekeeping staff through SMS for coach cleanliness, said its president P. Narayan.