Elaborate arrangements have been made by the Thiruvananthapuram railway division for pilgrims arriving from all over the country in trains to Sabarimala.

Addressing a press meet here on Friday, Divisional Railway Manager Rajiv Dutt Sharma said the Railways would ply 674 special trains this pilgrimage season, compared to 630 last season. Of the 674 trains, 448 will be from the Southern Railway, 140 from South Central Railway, 56 from South Western Railway, 28 from Central Railway and two from the North East Frontier Railway.

Additional coaches

In addition to the special trains, 660 sleeper coaches and 30 AC sleeper coaches will be added to trains to clear the rush. Mr. Sharma said all mail and express trains passing through the Ernakulam-Kayamkulam stretch would have five minutes stoppages at Chengannur and Tiruvalla railway stations.

One additional unreserved ticket counter will function at Chengannur, Kottayam and Ernakulam Junction stations. During the peak season from January 14 to 16 next year, two additional counters will function at Chengannur and Kottayam and one at Ernakulam Junction, Ernakulam Town and Tiruvilla.

The Divisional Railway Manager said a computerised passenger reservation centre had started functioning at Pampa and would be open till January 20. Additional counters with staff roped in from the zonal training school and conversant in Telugu, Kannada, Tamil and Hindi would function at Kottayam and Chengannur.

Mr. Sharma said permission to operate Information and Pilgrim Assistance booths on railway premises had been issued to Police, KSRTC and Devaswom Board at Chengannur and Kottayam. The St. John Ambulance Brigade of Southern Railway would be deployed at Kottayam and Chengannur to cater to medical emergencies. Permission had been granted to KSRTC to operate bus services from Chengannur, Kottayam and Ernakulam Junction.

More taps would be provided in platforms of all main stations where the pilgrims alight and board trains. At Kottayam and Chengannur stations, additional toilets/urinals had been provided.

The Divisional Railway Manager appealed to the pilgrims to keep the railway premises clean. The Railways have also urged the pilgrims not to use drinking water for bathing.

Special task force

A special task force would be on duty at Ernakulam Junction, Ernakulam Town, Kottayam and Chengannur on January 14. The team would have staff from Commercial, Medical, Operating, Mechanical, Engineering, Electrical, Signal and Telecom wings and Railway Protection Force (RPF).

The RPF has drawn a special security scheme for the season, drawing 75 personnel from other divisions. Altogether 275 head constable/ constables including 15 officers have been pressed into service for enhancing security at Chengannur, Kottayam, Tiruvalla, Ernakulam Junction, Ernakulam Town, Trichur and Guruvayur stations.