Indian Railway spent the most on construction in Southern Railway among all zones last year, the Chairman of Railway Board, S.S. Khurana, said.

Denying that Tamil Nadu was being ignored for railway developmental works, he told reporters here on Sunday, said that Rs. 1,300 crores was spent in Southern Railway that includes Tamil Nadu. He added that many doubling and gauge conversion works were taken up.

Mr. Khurana said that around 300 km of gauge conversion has been done in the zone which, he said, was the largest or the second largest in terms of size of work in any zone in the country. The Railway Board had made a policy decision to convert the majority of the 10,000 km. of metre gauge track in the country into broad gauge in the next four to five years. When asked about shortage of railway coaches, he said the railway was able to introduce 100 new trains last year. The demand for new trains was ever-increasing, he added.

The Southern Railway General Manager, Deepak Krishan, who was present, said that the progress of various developmental works in Tamil Nadu and Kerala was around one and half times when compared to the progress of works in rest of the country. The zone had completed gauge conversion works on the Villupuram-Mayiladuthurai section and train were operated on it for the last two days.

The work on the Kollam-Punalur, Irugu-Coimbatore and Vellore Villupuram sections too were completed. Many conversion projects including Manamadurai-Virudhunagar, Palakkad-Pollachi, Dindigul-Palani were expected to be completed this year.

On the Madurai-Bodi gauge conversion work, he said the line would be closed and work taken up only after other four gauge conversion works in the division were completed. He said that the Tamil Nadu Government allowing closure of section to enable gauge conversion projects was only helping speeding up the works.

The large projects could be completed in two years, which otherwise would take over six years. Mr. Khurana inspected the Tiruchi-Madurai section and various facilities at Madurai railway station. He also inaugurated the booking office which has been shifted to a new building at the station.