The response to the new train to Bangalore from here was lukewarm on Saturday. Most of the coaches in the special inaugural train, flagged off by Minister of State for Railways K.H. Muniyappa, had only a few commuters.

Compared to the excitement generated by the inauguration of the first train to Mangalore by then Railway Minister Lalu Prasad in December 2007, Saturday’s departure of the train was a low-key affair.

Barring the breaking of coconuts by activists of the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike who were wearing yellow and red shawls, and a well-decorated and newly-painted train, there was little to indicate that the people were excited about the development. Though the train could accommodate about 800 people, it appeared that fewer than 100 people were travelling in it.

Railway officials, who hoped the train would attract more commuters in future, pointed out that the inaugural flag off was announced only on Thursday and that the people got to know about it only on Friday.

57 tunnels

A brochure distributed on the occasion by the Southern Railway, however, highlighted the advantages the train held for commuters. Reminding them that travelling through the route would be a breathtaking experience for nature lovers, as it passed through the Western Ghats, it said there were 57 tunnels with the longest one being 573 metres. The total length of the tunnels was 11 km, it said. Besides, there were 241 bridges. People could alight at Subramanya Road to visit the famous Kukke Subramanya temple, while trekkers could go on forest trails by alighting at Yedakumeri and Sakleshpur. From Hassan, people could explore the historical temples at Belur and Halebid as well as the monolithic statue of Gomateshwara at Shravanabelgola. The brochure also said the train provided connectivity to “Mangalore – an educational centre with a port — and Bangalore – the IT capital of the country”. It added that the Mangalore port handled 75 per cent of India’s coffee exports.

Earlier, Udupi MP D.V. Sadananda Gowda and Dakshina Kannada MP Nalin Kumar Kateel demanded creation of a separate railway division with Mangalore as headquarters and extension of the Mumbai-Karwar train up to Mangalore. Mr. Gowda also sought extension of the new train up to Karwar.

Mayor M. Shankar Bhat demanded that the level-crossings in the city be provided with railway bridges to ensure unhindered movement of vehicles.

Union Minister for Law and Justice M. Veerappa Moily said the proposal to operate a “train-bus” between Karwar and Mangalore should be implemented at the earliest. He said he would review the Central Government projects of the region in Mangalore but did not indicate when.

Mangalore MLA U.T. Khader sought expansion of the Thokkuttu junction on the outskirts of Mangalore and stoppage there for all trains. The junction, he pointed out, was close to Mangalore University, many private educational institutions and major IT units.

General Manager of Southern Railway M.S. Jayanth said the inception report to convert Mangalore station into a world-class one was under preparation. He said Mangalore would get extra pit lines, a security system with close-circuit TVs and explosives detection equipment. Passenger amenities were being created at a cost of Rs. 6 crore at the Mangalore Central Station and at a cost of Rs. 4 crore at the Mangalore Junction.

Later, Mr. Muniyappa reiterated that trains could not be confined to one region, in an apparent reference to the fears expressed by Mr. Gowda and others about the extension of the Yeshwanthpur-Mangalore night train up to Kannur in Kerala.