On Thursday, Tiruvarur-Pattukottai meter gauge line would see its last service before it is closed down on October 19 for gauge conversion. This would bring the curtains down on the 110-year-old MG line just a day short of its date of establishment on October 20, 1902.
Tiruvarur-Pattukottai line was part of the erstwhile Mayavaram-Muthupettai line that was established on April 2, 1894, by the South Indian Railway Company. The line was supported by steam power enabling freight and passenger trains.
The closure of 76-km MG line would also signal the rolling back of the last of the meter-gauge lines under the Southern Railway and second last meter gauge line under the South Indian Railway divisions after the still functional 46-km Mettupalayam-Ooty line, says Aravind Kumar, vice president, Consumer Protection Council. Mayiladuthurai-Tirvuarur-Karaikudi MG line including branch lines of Thiruthuraipoondi-Agasthiampalli and Nidamangalam-Mannargudi was estimated for gauge conversion works at a cumulative cost of Rs.1,005 crore. As of date, the 39-km Mayiladuthurai-Tiruvarur section and the 13.4 km Nidamangalam-Mannargudi stretch have been completed and since been opened up for passenger traffic.
The expenditure incurred so far has been Rs.393 crore, and the last budget has made an allocation of Rs.612 crore for the project. The new alignment under the project was Mannargudi-Pattukottai line. The alleged delay in initiating the BG conversion works along Tiruvarur-Pattukottai line had spawned a couple of public interest litigations, and scores of agitations, trading allegations of vested interests stalling the project.
Salt Manufacturer’s Association of Vedaranyam, BJP-led Social Action Forum of Mayiladuthurai, and Thiruthuraipoondi Chamber of Commerce, have been in the forefront of the demands for expedition of gauge conversion works on Tiruvarur-Pattukottai line on priority basis.
On Friday, the last rail vestiges of a by-gone era in these parts would be shut down to ring in a long-stretched works for the broad gauge line.
The north-south line that forms this section is also interspersed with several rivers that may make it a long-winding and critical engineering endeavour with lengthy bridge over rivers, says Mr.Aravind Kumar.