Fate of service between Ernakulam and Kollam Junction stations hangs in the balance due to poor commuter patronage

Railways are yet to take a decision on the withdrawal of the Mainline Electric Multiple Unit (MEMU) services between Ernakulum Junction and Kollam Junction, kicked off on March 28 and subsequently suspended due to ‘poor patronage’ from commuters.

“We have recommended withdrawal of the service in view of the poor response and financial loss to Railways. The Railway headquarters is yet to take a decision on our recommendation,” Divisional Railway Manager, Sunil Bajpai told The Hindu here.

Use of rake

The rake used to operate the 66307/ 66308 Ernakulam Junction - Kollam Junction - Ernakulam Junction MEMU, via Kottayam, and the 66309/66310 Ernakulam Junction - Kollam Junction - Ernakulam Junction MEMU, via Alappuzha, had been handed over to the Palakkad Railway Division.

As the withdrawal proposal had not been cleared, a conventional rake was being used to operate the two services sanctioned in the Union Railway budget 2013-14. “The time schedule had been retained and we are keenly watching the collection from the services,” Mr. Bajpai said.

“The division went ahead with the recommendation to withdraw the services as the ticket sales were not enough to meet the cost of power, salary to the loco pilot, and guard and the Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel who are on patrol duty. The loss per service was Rs.80,000,” sources said.

In many stations along the stretch, there was not even a commuter to board the train. A survey carried out by the RPF found that only a dozen commuters travelled in the MEMU service at night. At least four RPF personnel had to travel in the MEMU train as it departed from Kollam Junction, 10 minutes past midnight, for Ernakulam Junction. The four MEMU services operated using one rake.

The timings had come in for criticism from passenger associations as it was not beneficial for short-distance commuters. The haste in which the MEMU services were introduced had also been flayed.

The line via Alappuzha to Ernakulam was saturated by 135 per cent and hence the MEMU services were given a night slot, sources said.

The partial doubling via Kottayam up to Ernakulam had helped Railways squeeze in the new MEMU services during daytime despite the line being saturated by 140 per cent, sources said.

The handing over of the MEMU rake to the Palakkad division had come as a relief for the authorities as they had been using a conventional rake to operate the 66604/ 66605 Shoranur – Coimbatore - Shoranur MEMU service after it was taken to Avadi routine overhaul on January 19.

The periodic overhaul of the MEMU rake, done every 18 months, was over by February 27. But, the MEMU rake was not returned to the division. The six-coach formation, as opposed to the eight-car MEMU service with less number of seats, was greeted with ire by commuters in the busy stretch. Highly placed sources in the Palakkad division said the rake had reached them.

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