Introduction of four new trains via Tiruchi fails to enthuse the travelling public

Commuters of the central districts barring Tiruchi are in an upbeat mood, thanks to the announcement of new trains, extension of the existing trains, and the proposal for new lines announced in the Railway Budget.

Delta districts of Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, and Nagapattinam have much to cheer about with the announcement of introduction of three new trains: Thanjavur – Chennai, Mannargudi – Coimbatore, Chennai – Velankanni link express, Puducherry – Kanyakumari weekly and Chennai – Karaikudi weekly trains. Karaikal – Peralam and Thanjavur – Pattukottai new line projects have been included in the budget and work will be taken up this year.

The announcement of the introduction of Chennai-Salem-Karur-Palani daily, Coimbatore-Mannargudi daily, Coimbatore-Nagercoil daily expresses, and the weekly Coimbatore-Rameswaram Express are bound to rev up the spirits of Karur residents. The new set of express trains announced would ease the passenger movement out of Karur towards the Thanjavur delta, deeper Kongu belt, Dindigul-Palani belt, and Puducherry areas besides providing an additional train daily to Chennai.

The travelling public of Pudukottai are celebrating the announcement of the extension of the Tiruchi–Chennai day time Pallavan Express to Karaikudi and the new Chennai – Karaikudi weekly train.

However, commuters of Tiruchi district are a disappointed lot. They were expecting announcements on the introduction of new trains from Tiruchi to various centres in Tamil Nadu and in North India. They have been demanding restoration of the Rockfort express to Tiruchi, besides an overnight passenger to Chennai, to ease congestion in the night trains.

Not only no new train was announced from Tiruchi, the Railway Minister rubbed salt into the wounds of Tiruchiites by extending two trains – Pallavan express, one of the very few trains to originate from Tiruchi, a divisional headquarters, to Karaikudi; the recently introduced weekly Mangalore – Tiruchi Express to Puducherry – and remaining silent on restoring Rockfort express to Tiruchi, despite introduction of a new overnight train from Thanjavur to Chennai on the main line.

The extension of Pallavan Express has sent shock waves among all sections. Already, consumer organisations, traders’ bodies and rail users associations are up in arms and have urged the Railway Ministry to drop the move. A meeting of Confederation of Consumer and Service Organisations adopted a resolution to approach the court if the Railway Minister did not concede their just demand, according to M. Sekaran, president of the confederation.

The introduction of new trains: Coimbatore – Mannargudi, Nagercoil–Bangalore, Puducherry – Kanyakumari (all daily) and Chennai – Karaikudi weekly train via Tiruchi should have gladdened the hearts of the residents of Tiruchi. But they could not celebrate the same due to the extension of Pallavan Express and the Tiruchi-Mangalore Express.

This is not the first time that Tiruchiites have to experience such a major disappointment. The Bangalore–Tiruchi express was extended to Thanjavur and later to Mayiladuthurai many years ago. Similarly, the Rockfort Express was extended to Thanjavur and later to Kumbakonam a few years ago. Last year, the Ernakulam – Tiruchi Express was extended to Karaikal. Moreover, the Mangalore-Tiruchi day train was shifted to some other route all of a sudden a few years ago. What has saddened them more is the absence of a strong lobby to demand and get new facilities for Tiruchi. T.R. Baalu, chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Railways, was instrumental in getting the new trains from Mannargudi to Coimbatore, Thanjavur to Chennai and Velankanni to Chennai. The extension of Pallavan Express to Karaikudi and the weekly Chennai – Karaikudi Express are said to have had the blessings of Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, as a major part of Pudukottai district and Karaikudi falls in his Sivaganga Lok Sabha constituency.

A section of the commuters is of the view that the extension of Pallavan Express will not benefit the people of Sivaganga and Pudukottai districts, as they would have to catch the train in the early morning hours. The high profile Union Finance Minister using his clout in the Centre could get a new day time train from Karaikudi – Chennai, which will be of immense help to commuters of Tiruchi too, without disturbing Pallavan Express, they say.

Extension of Pallavan Express to Karaikudi, will only undermine the importance of Tiruchi, said Ve. Govindarajulu, state secretary of Tamil Nadu Vanigar Sangangalin Peramaippu.

Meanwhile, A.V. Narayanan, a senior citizen and a frequent traveller, says that the chances of Railway Ministry conceding the demand of Tiruchiites are bleak.

The organisations which are spearheading the agitation, could approach the top authorities for the introduction of a Pallavan model super fast express train to Chennai, leaving Tiruchi in the evening hours.