Works apace in the Madurai-Tirunelveli sector
End-to-end train services powered by electric traction in the Chennai-Tiruchi-Kanyakumari trunk route could be a reality by December next year, given the accelerated electrification works across railway divisions in the State.
Electrification works in the Madurai-Tirunelveli sector are apace with electric loco hauled trains expected to be operated on that segment by the end of the current fiscal.
While the electrification works up to Tiruchi were completed in 2009-10 and train services powered by electric traction introduced on the route, the electrification of the line was taken up to Dindigul during 2010-11.
The electrification works in the Madurai–Tirunelveli–Nagercoil – Kanyakumari section are also apace with the lines up to Tirunelveli and Tuticorin expected to be readied for introduction of electric loco hauled trains by end of the current financial year.
The Railways is targeting electrification up to Kanyakumari by December 2012 that would provide end-to-end electric traction on the Chennai-Kanyakumari trunk route.
According to a Southern Railway official, the electrification works of the remaining stretch in the Tiruchi–Madurai section are also nearing completion.
Madurai yard modification
The Madurai yard modification works as part of Dindigul – Madurai doubling are expected to be completed by Southern Railways only by end of May 2011 and as such electrification works will be over by end of June 2011, the official said.
In the Chennai-Kanyakumari trunk route, the electrification was done up to Villupuram during early 1960s, and for almost three decades, electrification beyond that point was put on the backburner due to financial constraints and other reasons.
However, a renewed emphasis on energy conservation and carbon footprint reduction has led to the emergence of electrification of railway lines and electric traction as pollution free and energy efficient mode of transportation.
In Southern Railway, the Chennai Electrification Project has outpaced the nine other divisions of the Allahabad-based Central Organisation for Railway Electrification and accounted for a record 222 route kilometres of the aggregate of 740 RKMs completed in the Indian Railway System during 2010-11, according to R.P. Udayakumar, Chief Project Manager of CORE's Chennai Project Office.
As of now, the 21,000 RKMs that have been electrified represent only about 30 per cent of total route kilometre of Indian Railways.
The Indian Railway's Vision 2020 document envisages electrification of 33,000 RKMs by 2020, which leaves the task of completing electrification of about 12,000 RKMs over the next nine years at a rate of 1,300 RKMs per year.
New generation locomotives
The electric traction front has also seen the introduction of new generation WAP7 and WAG9 class three-phase locomotives and gadgets such as infra-red mapping for monitoring the overhead traction wires that have cut down distribution losses. Though there has been a shift towards electric traction, diesel locos continue to do the long hauls in the Railway network.
Besides, some popular trains continue to be hauled by diesel locos on the routes that have the electric traction facility for various operational reasons.
For instance, the Nellai Express alternates between diesel and electric loco haulage even though end-to-end powering on electric traction is available between Chennai Egmore and Tiruchi, sources said.