Kozhikode's development ambitions are being stymied by poor connectivity. Railways can plug this gap by improving passenger amenities and running more trains.

Kozhikode city is fast emerging into a metropolis with expansion activities in different fields. Yet lack of good connectivity seemed to have taken a toll on its development. Railways, which have made life easy for thousands of commuters elsewhere, are still to address the woes of those in the city.

The Kozhikode railway station is one of the important stations falling in category A of the Palakkad division of Southern Railway with the passenger turnout exceeding 8,000 daily. Several years ago, the Union Railway Ministry had declared that the station would be elevated to world-class status, upgrading the passenger reservation counters and improving amenities on the platforms.

The promises remain on paper. Passengers still have to walk almost 500 metres to reach the fourth platform as there is only a single footbridge at the north end. An additional footbridge at the south end would help ease the difficulties faced by commuters in entering and exiting the stations.

M.K. Raghavan, Kozhikode MP, says Railways should provide roofs for the entire section of all four platforms. Now only portions of the platform are covered giving a tough time to the passengers during the rainy season. Automatic vending machines for platform tickets at both entries or separate counters for platform tickets should be introduced on platforms one and four to mitigate the rush during peak hours.

Absence of proper toilets is another worrying factor for commuters. More toilets should be constructed on platforms one, two, and four. Besides, the station track should be concreted and platforms paved with interlocking titles to look neat and tidy. The railway health unit needs to be upgraded to suit the requirements of the increasing number of passengers, he says.

A budget hotel and refreshment stalls are yet to commence operations on the fourth platform. This apart, an Internet cafe and a closed-circuit television should be started. There was also an urgent need to start medical store facilities on all platforms.

Railways need to introduce more trains to improve connectivity. At least 12 trains are urgently required linking Kozhikode to other cities. They include the Kozhikode-Vasco and Mangalore-Hyderabad expresses, the Kannur- Thiruvananthapuram night express, the Mangalore-Madurai express, the Kozhikode-Erode Intercity express, and the Mangalore- Chennai Express.

New trains such as the Jan Shatabdi Express, Garib Rath and Intercity Express should be introduced between Kozhikode and Bangalore. Making the Thiruvananthapuram-Nizamuddin Rajadhani, Kochuveli-Lokmanya Tilak Garib Rath, and Kozhikode-Thiruvananthapuram Jan Shatabdi daily services are the other demands, Mr. Raghavan says.

Pit lane

The railway authorities need to consider setting up a 24-coach pit lane at West Hill station. The absence of pit lanes in north Kerala is one of the reasons that trains are not started from, or terminated at, Kozhikode. Pit-lane yards are normally used for maintenance of coaches during the idling time of trains. As of now, full-fledged pit-lane facilities are available at Coimbatore, Erode, and Mangalore in the Palakkad division, he says.

He says the proposal for a railway medical college in Thiruvananthapuram has not progressed on account of the non-availability of land. Therefore, the project should be allotted to some other site under the Palakkad division where sufficient railway land is available. A new staff quarters should be constructed with modern facilities, as the existing building is in a crumbling state.