It will reduce availability of berths to travellers from State, they say
The Railway Ministry’s decision to extend Dadar-Yeshwantpur Chalukya Express (Train Nos. 11017/18) to Puducherry and Tirunelveli thrice a week has surprised many in the State, particularly those from north Karnataka, as the train had already been running full with a long waiting list.
The extension, they said, will further reduce the availability of seats for passengers from Bangalore, Tumkur, Davangere, Hubli and Belgaum. Passengers pointed out that the Chalukya was the only regular train between Hubli and Mumbai even though there are four weekly trains passing through Hubli to touch Vasai Road, 47 km away from Mumbai Central.
Madan Desai, former president of the Karnataka Chamber of Commerce, Hubli, said Hubli has a historical connection with Maharashtra as it was earlier part of Bombay state. “Many of us have a business and personal relationship with Maharashtra and extension of the Chalukya Express has affected our travel plans,” he told The Hindu. “In fact, the chamber had been demanding a new train between Hubli and Mumbai,” he said. K.N. Krishna Prasad, a regular passenger from Bangalore said the Chalukya was the only service connecting Bangalore with Mumbai via Hubli. All other trains to Mumbai from Bangalore run via Guntakal. People beyond Tumkur depend upon the Chalukya to travel to Pune/Mumbai.
Prakash Mandoth, chairman of Infrastructure Committee, Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FKCCI), Bangalore, said extension of the train was not the answer to offering connectivity between Mumbai-Puducherry and Mumbai-Tirunelveli.
He said Tirunelveli is already connected to Mumbai through Nagercoil-Mumbai Express (Train Nos. 16340 and 16352), which together run six days a week. For Puducherry, the Ministry could have introduced a special train, making it a permanent service later.
Given the fact that the Chalukya has always been running full with a long waiting list, its extension would only add to the misery of travellers from Karnataka, he said.
Mr. Mandoth said he, earlier as a member of the Zonal Railway Users’ Consultative Committee and in the present capacity, had been demanding introduction of a superfast train between Bangalore and Mumbai, to reduce the running time from 25 hours to 16 to17 hours.
“In fact, I was the one who had given the idea of Duranto Express to the then Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee. But Duranto from Karnataka was neither introduced to Delhi nor to Mumbai, but to Ms. Banerjee’s home State,” he regretted.
Mr. Mandoth said the chamber as well as other likeminded people from Karnataka will fight out this issue and demand restoration of the Chalukya Express.
Sources in the SWR told The Hindu that the zone had actually proposed operating separate trains between Bangalore and Puducherry/Tirunelveli utilising the rakes of Chalukya Express.
What the Ministry decided was to extend the service altogether, thereby reducing the availability of berths to travellers from Karnataka. A senior SWR official said the Chalukya had always been running full, even during the lean season between July and September.
SWR General Manager Anil Kumar Mittal said this extension should also be seen in the perspective of connectivity for people of Karnataka towards Puducherry and Tirunelveli.
“There is nothing like State Railways and extension of services is a regular process done by the Railway Board,” he said.
‘Depends on board’
Asked on the reason behind Chalukya’s extension, Mr. Mittal said the board had decided on it. “We have also been recommending more trains between Bangalore-Mumbai and Hubli-Mumbai. Whenever the board agrees, the same comes through the Railway Budget,” he said.