Travellers are forced to pay almost double the fare to reach Chennai

While the opening of the mainline section following completion of gauge conversion works and the resumption of train traffic have been largely welcomed, people of Tiruchi and delta districts have been shocked that the Tiruchi-Chennai Egmore ‘Cholan Express,' a day-time train, has only sleeper class coaches, forcing travellers to pay almost double the fare to reach Chennai.

The Cholan Express was one of the major trains in the mainline that enjoyed good patronage while it was run in the metre gauge earlier. Its re-introduction has gladdened travellers of Tiruchi district, as it is the second originating train from Tiruchi, a railway divisional headquarters, to Chennai next only to the Pallavan Super Fast Express.

Being a day-time train providing a direct connectivity to Chennai, it serves people of Thanjavur, Tiruvarur and Nagapattinam districts to reach the State capital without having to travel via Tiruchi.

Passengers strongly feel that a day-time train like the Cholan Express should be run with chair car coaches instead of sleeper class compartments. Passengers now pay Rs. 184 from Tiruchi to Chennai to travel in this train in a reserved compartment (unreserved ticket costs just Rs. 93), while travel by the Chennai-bound Pallavan Super Fast Express from Tiruchi, also a day-time train, costs only Rs. 104 in a reserved coach.

The reserved ticket fare in this train from Tiruchi to Mayiladuthurai is Rs. 120, whereas one has to pay only Rs. 39 for travelling in the unreserved compartment.

“What is the need for operating coaches with sleeper facilities in an out and out day time train ?,” asks Ramakrishnan, a businessman of Pudukottai road. It will be really wise on the part of the railway authorities to operate a day-time train like the Cholan Express with chair car coaches that will hugely lessen the fare instead of being operated with sleeper class coaches.

The irony is that Cholan express is the first train to get chair car facility a few decades ago. Further, the timings of the Cholan express are not passenger-friendly, feel travellers. At present the Cholan Express leaves Tiruchi Junction at 9.10 a.m. and reaches Chennai at 5.45 p.m.

In the return direction the train leaves Chennai Egmore at 8.20 a.m. and arrives at Tiruchi at 4.35 p.m. The people have to spend the whole day in the train, which is a waste of time.

The railways could explore the possibility of changing the existing timing of the Cholan Express in both the directions, say travellers. They suggest that the railways could make changes in such way that the train leaves Tiruchi Junction around 6 a.m. so that it arrives at Chennai around 2 p.m. In the return direction it could leave Chennai at 2.30 p.m. and arrive here at about 10 p.m. This would save a lot of time for the passengers as they need not waste the whole day.

The people arriving at Chennai by Cholan Express could also finish their work in the afternoon to catch the night train to return the next morning. Such an arrangement will immensely benefit the travelling public of Thanjavur, Kumbakonam, Mayiladuthurai and Chidambaram, says, Ayesha Sirajudeen, a housewife.

Tiruchiites are also sad that they have no passenger train facility to reach temple towns like Chidambaram, Sirkazhi, Vaitheeswarankoil, Tiruppadiripuliyur etc from Tiruchi during the day time, even after the opening of the mainline. At present for reaching towns beyond Mayiladuthurai during the day time, the people of Tiruchi have to depend on Cholan Express alone.

While expressing appreciation for introducing two pairs of passenger trains in the Mayiladuthurai – Villuppuram section, they have pleaded with the railways to extend these pairs of trains up to Tiruchi with immediately effect.

“The railways should also extend all the passenger trains being run in the Tiruchi – Mayiladuthurai section up to Villuppuram,” says P. Rajiv Gandhi a private concern employee and frequent traveller.