Irked over the continued neglect and delay in execution of the new broad gauge railway line work linking Karur and Salem through Namakkal, public and rail users have called upon the Railways Ministry and the elected representatives in the region to expedite the process.
Inadequate funding, numerous cases regarding land acquisition, work that proceeded at a snail’s pace and all other issues conspired to delay the progress of the work that was initially given the green signal in 1996-97. The actual groundwork took two years to start when the foundation stone was laid with much fanfare here on May 21, 1998 by the then Railway Minister Nitish Kumar.
Then again there was inordinate delay in constructing the major bridge across river Cauvery between Vangal in Karur district and Mohanur in Namakkal district wherein some piers stood mute testimony to Railway apathy till some months back. Now there has been some progress after much goading, public point out.
The 85-km line project was sanctioned initially at a cost of Rs. 155 crore which was revised to Rs. 229.88 crore in 2000. Again considering the escalation in the cost of construction materials, steel, cement, etc., the cost was revised to Rs. 615 crore. The bridge between Vangal and Mohanur was being constructed for a length of 1.2 km at a cost of Rs. 36.37 crore.
The new line covers three districts — Karur, Namakkal and Salem. When the authorities acquired land for the project, many people in those districts moved the courts seeking “adequate” compensation. Most of the cases pertain to Namakkal district. Previously the plan was to establish five stations and now the Railways has planned to add three more stations taking the tally to eight in the section.
For the frugal amount that the Railways allotted each year since the inception of the project, only little work could be done and that too at a tardy pace, Karur District Rail Users’ Association president S. Annadurai told The Hindu.
The new line would greatly reduce the travel time and distance between Karur and Salem. At present Salem-bound trains have to make a detour to Erode, about 40 km in excess of the proposed route.
“We thought that with the formation of the Salem Railway Division work would hasten but our hopes have been dashed by the attitude of a section of the senior Railway officials,” Mr. Annadurai adds.
Some years back, the then Minister of State for Railways R. Velu during a review visit said that the project would be completed by 2010 but even that would remain a pipedream, notes Association member M. Gunasekaran.
The project would be a great boon to the industrial belt of Karur-Namakkal-Salem and the Railways should understand that the new BG line would spur an economic growth bringing in undreamt of potential in the region.
The Ministry should allot enough and more funds as demanded by the Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi in his letter to the Railway Minister Mamata Bannerjee, says textile industrialist K. Sekar of Vengamedu in Karur.
During 1997-98, Rs. 4.76 crore was spent on the project. The grant in the 1998-99 budget was Rs. 15 crore. The expenditure incurred till February 2003 was Rs. 53.64 crore. The provision during 2003-04 was Rs.15.69 crore. Same was the story year after year.
As pointed out by Mr. Karunanidhi, the current year’s allocation is a meagre Rs. 36 crore while the requirement for the current year alone is put at Rs. 140 crore. It is now up to the MPs in the region to do their bit, public say.