The 44-km railway line between Kollam and Punalur that has been converted into a broad gauge line at a cost of Rs.150 crore will be commissioned on Wednesday.

Union Minister of State for Railways E. Ahamed will commission the line and flag off the new train services in the stretch at a function in Kollam railway station at 11.30 a.m. Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs M. Vijayakumar, who is also holding the portfolio of railways, will preside over the function. Leader of Opposition Oommen Chandy, Labour Minister P.K. Gurudasan and Education Minister M.A. Baby will be present.

The gauge conversion took almost 11 years to complete after the foundation stone was laid. It was A.K. Antony who laid the foundation in 1998 at a function in Punalur for the gauge conversion work. However, the actual work by Railways began only in May 2007.

The train services from Punalur to Kollam were withdrawn three years ago for facilitating the work causing great inconvenience to the commuters. With the commissioning of the stretch, demands had come up from several quarters to extend mail and express trains to Punalur.

Railway sources said the local trains would start plying in the Kollam-Punalur stretch from Wednesday onwards. The proposals to operate the services from Thiruvananthapuram division had been forwarded to the zonal headquarters in Chennai for approval.

The authorities are trying to operate two services each in the morning and evening in the Kollam-Punalur-Kollam stretch. An official said the train would have 10 coaches and would be hauled by diesel locomotive. One of the rakes had reached the division.

The stretch from Punalur to Shencottah is metre gauge and the train service operating in the stretch would soon be stopped to take up the gauge conversion, the sources said.

Pilgrim complex

The Union Minister of State for Railways will lay the foundation stone for the pilgrim complex being constructed by Railways at the Chengannur railway station on May 12. The Rs.95-lakh facility will provide comfort to hundreds of Sabarimala pilgrims passing through the station.

Kodikunnil Suresh, MP, will preside over the function. P.J. Kurien, MP, and other dignitaries will participate.

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