Southern Railway has got a better deal in the Railway Budget, bagging 17 new express trains and a few major projects for new lines and line surveys.

But railwaymen are upset at the lack of emphasis on upgrading zonal-level train care and maintenance facilities that are key to safety.

The budget, which seeks to partially offset the hands-off approach to passenger fares through marginal increases on an array of ticketing surcharges, has also listed only a few major doubling works — Tirupati-Katpadi, Chennai Central-Basin Bridge doubling of the fifth and sixth lines and Shoranur-Mangalore third line — even as the doubling of the Chengalpattu-Tiruchi section has been dragging on for over three years owing to bottlenecks in land acquisition. Gauge conversion of the Pollachi-Podanur and Madurai-Bodi sections has also been tardy for the same reasons.

In the current budget, gauge conversion has been proposed for the Pollachi-Kinattukkadavu stretch of the Pollachi-Podanur section; the Sengottai-Bhagavathipuram section and the Edamann-Punalur section.

The new lines are Thanjavur-Pattukottai, Karaikal-Peralam, Cumbum-Prodattur and Sriperumbudur-Guduvanchery with spur to Irungattukotti-Avadi. New line surveys are for sections including Aloor-Nagarcoil-Chettikulam, Karaikkudi-Dindigul, Thanjavur-Ariyalur, Morappur-Dharmapuri and Kanniyur-Pottikulam.

However, barely a handful of new passenger trains — Palani-Tiruchendur, Punalur-Kollam, Shoranur-Kozhikode and Thrissur-Guruvayur — have been introduced, while no new DEMU has been allotted. The sole new MEMU sanctioned is the Chennai-Tirupati service.

There has been extension of 10 trains and an increase in the frequency of six services. The extensions involve the Chennai-Madurai portion of the Chennai-Guruvayur Express to Tuticorin; the Chennai-Tiruchchirappalli Express to Karaikudi; the Mangalore-Tiruchchirappalli Express to Puducherry; the Bangalore-Nagore Passenger to Karaikal; the Karaikudi-Manamadurai DEMU to Virudhanagar and the Madurai-Dindigul Passenger to Palani.

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