No new DEMU or MEMU services have been announced

Tamil Nadu has been provided nine new trains, including two premium and four express trains, in Union Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge’s interim Railway budget for 2014-15 that was presented in Parliament on Wednesday.

While the new trains have been welcomed by passenger associations and industry chambers, the budget has come across as lacklustre for commuter segments as no new DEMU or MEMU services have been announced. The lack of new DEMU/MEMU trains could especially be a sore point for travellers in the Karur-Salem regions where the opening of the new broad gauge line has not been fully leveraged with a proportionate increase in frequency of services.

The Salem – Omalur stretch has been included in the five segments where doubling of tracks is to be taken up during 2014-15 while extension of Tindivanam – Nagari new line up to Puducherry finds a place in the list of places where surveys for new lines will be carried out.

However, no train in the zonal railways has been considered for an increase in frequency or extension.

Chief Minister Jayalalithaa panned the Budget for its “step-motherly treatment of the South and Tamil Nadu in particular” as very few new train connections were announced for the State.

Terming the Railway budget “extremely disappointing,” she said there was hardly any addition to carrying capacity, both in terms of passengers and freight in the southern region of the country and Tamil Nadu in particular. There was also no word on additional funding for the completion of long-pending gauge conversion projects and new line projects in Tamil Nadu, she said.

“There is nothing in the Railway budget for the people of Tamil Nadu to cheer about. But I take satisfaction in the fact that it is only an interim budget and the main Railway budget to be presented in June, 2014, by a new government will undoubtedly reflect the aspirations of the people of Tamil Nadu,” she stated.

“We welcome the announcement of new trains. But the lack of adequate focus on improving safety, security and basic passenger amenities is largely disappointing,” said T. Ravikumar, president, All India Rail and Bus Passengers’ Welfare Association.

The Madras Chamber of Commerce, while welcoming measures such as the proposed Independent Rail Tariff Authority, said that the budget raised concern in that it had left unaddressed issues such as the decline in both passenger and freight earning and the cross subsidy of passenger fare from freight revenues.

The Tamil Chamber of Commerce said that the absence of plans to attract investments for modernisation and safety was disappointing.

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