The 49 km Punalur-Schencotta meter gauge ghat section coming under the Madura Division of the Railways will be closed on September 20 to facilitate gauge conversion work.

The Punalur-Schencotta section is part of the Kollam-Schencotta section which in the past was the main rail route to Madras from the Travancore part of the State.

The meter gauge section was laid more than a hundred years ago by the British. The gauge conversion work is part of the 357 km Virudhunagar-Tenkasi-Tirunellveli-Tiruchendur project with an outlay of Rs.1,029 crore. On completion, it will also serve as a shorter route from Thiruvananthapuram to Chennai.

Railway sources said the 2010-2011 outlay for the Punalur-Schencotta gauge conversion work is Rs.62 crore. The whole gauge conversion of the section is expected to be completed by 2013. The gauge conversion work on the Punalur-Kollam section was completed in May this year and train services are operated along the section.

Being a ghat section, the gauge conversion work along the Punalur-Schencotta section had to be taken up separately because of the sharp curves, steep gradients and tunnels. The Punalur-Araynkavu stretch of this section passes through forest areas coming under the Thenmala and Aryankavu forest ranges.

But the Railways have enough land in their possession to carry out the gauge conversion work without touching the forest areas. The section also has a unique 13 arch railway flyover bridging two hills. Railway sources said the flyover would be maintained but strengthened to meet the requirements of board gauge traffic.

Railway station on this section built by the British and which still maintains the colonial look will be replaced with new buildings. Travelling through the section is a tourist attraction and many tourists still travel in trains through this section to enjoy the scenic beauty on either side. In the past, this section had served as an active trade route bringing in vegetables and provision from the rural farm markets of Tamil Nadu into Kollam. Once the conversion work gets completed, commodity movement through the rail into Kollam will revive.

Keywords: Indian Railways

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