“First service could start surely by the end of this month”

Passenger trains will soon commence operations on the Villupuram-Vellore sector, which has been converted to broad gauge.

This follows safety certification from the Commissioner, Railway Safety, Southern Circle, Bangalore, for operating passenger services on the stretch.

The Commissioner undertook a high-speed trial using a special train formation on the line between Villupuram and Vellore Cantonment on March 5.

It has 20 stations, comprising 10 crossing stations and 10 halt stations, apart from 20 major and 386 minor railway bridges.

“The decks are now cleared for operating passenger trains and the first services could start very soon…possibly in a few days, surely by the end of this month,” R. Ramanathan, Chief Administrative Officer (Construction), Southern Railway, told The Hindu.

While civil works were completed in 2010, the stretch has not been opened for passenger service pending rectification of technical defects reported in an inspection carried out in April, 2010, by the Commissioner of Railway Safety, Southern Circle, Bangalore.

The 160 km-gauge conversion project was taken up between Villupuram and Katpadi railway stations at a cost of Rs.500 crore and a 10 km-broad gauge stretch between Vellore Cantonment and Katpadi opened for passenger train traffic over two years ago with a service from Villupuram to Tirupati (via Katpadi).

Before safety clearance to start passenger services, the 150 km-Villupuram-Vellore section was opened for freight movement after a trial run using a diesel engine in January 2010 led by the Chief Engineer (Construction), Southern Railway, Chennai.

Gauge conversion works

Gauge conversion works are progressing on Tirunelveli-Tenkasi, Dindigul-Palani, Mayavaram-Tiruvarur and Virudhanagar-Manamadurai sections involving a rail length of 176 km, officials said.

The 2011-12 Railway Budget has earmarked Rs.440 crore for gauge conversion works in Southern Railway as against Rs.238 crore the previous fiscal.