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Sunday, July 15, 2001

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Chandy demands diversion of trains

By Our Special Correspondent

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, JULY 14. The UDF convener, Mr. Oommen Chandy , has urged the Railway authorities to run the Mangala Express, the Kurla Express and a weekly train to Rajkot/Hapa from Kozhikode on the Konkan route to reduce the present difficulties of the travelling public of the area.

In a memorandum submitted to the Union Railway Minister, Mr. Nitish Kumar, here today, Mr. Chandy said he was making the plea as the people of the five northern districts of Kerala and south Karnataka were finding it very difficult because of the cancellation of many trains and the diversion of some others along Coimbatore after the Kadalundi rail mishap. He stated that even when all the 28 Mail, Express and passenger trains and seven pairs of weekly and bi-weekly trains were running along the west coast line the people were finding it difficult to get accommodation.

He said he was aware of the shortage of staff and facilities like pit line at Kozhikode. He suggested that the staff shortage could be overcome by asking those at Mangalore and Kannur to work on a temporary basis at Kozhikode. Casual workers too could be engaged. The pit line examination could be done at the other end like Nizamuddin and Kurla till normality was restored.

Mr. Chandy called for avoiding undue delay in the reconstruction of the Kadalundi bridge and the restoration of train services along it. He asked the Railway not to hesitate in seeking the help of the Military Engineering Service if it was necessary. The services of eminent engineers such as Mr. E. Sreedharan could also be made use of.

He wanted the allotment for the Angamali-Sabarimala line to be raised from Rs. 10 crores this year to Rs. 50 crores per year to make up for the neglect of the last few decades. It should also be extended to Punalur to give connection to the Kollam-Chenkotta converted line which would provide rail link to more areas and function as an alternate route. It would serve the hill areas of the State and provide greater access to the Sabarimala temple to the pilgrms. He urged the Minister to accord sanction for the 55 km-long Erumeli-Punalur stretch of the line which was estimated to cost Rs. 150 crores on a priority basis.

Two other sanctioned projects which were awaiting the green signal were the Kuttipuram-Guruvayur line (36 km and costing Rs. 90 crores) and the Kottayam-Erumeli line (44 km/Rs. 200 crores). He also urged the Minister to give priority to the doubling of the Kayamkulam-Kottayam-Ernakulam stretch and the Kayamkulam- Ernakulam line via Alappuzha and for establishing a crossing station at Parassala to increase the capacity of the Thiruvananthapuram-Nagercoil line and avoid the delay due to crossing along the line.

The proposed Chengannur-Kottarakara-Thiruvananthapuram, the Thakazhi-Tiruvalla-Pathanamthitta and the Vadakara-Mysore lines were also important for the development of the State, he said and hoped the Minister would give special consideration to these projects also.

The other demands made by him included the starting of a train from Thiruvananthapuram to Chennai Egmore via Nagercoil and Madurai, upgrading of the Parasuram Express, the Alappuzha- Chennai Express and the Thiruvananthapuram-Mangalore Mail, according of higher priority to the gauge conversion of the Kollam-Thenkasi-Virudhanagar section, allotment of more funds for the electrification of the Ernakulam-Thiruvananthapuram section, starting of a circular suburban line in Kochi and upgradation of the standard of railway stations in general in the State.

Referring to the Centre's decision to set up a Rs. 17,000 crore fund for replacing overaged assets as part of the steps to improve the safety of rail travel and to make available Rs. 2,500 crores for the purpose during the first year, he called for implementing the programme on a war footing in Kerala in the light of the Kadalundi mishap. He wanted top priority to be given for replacing the bridges, signalling system and track in north Kerala.

Mr. Chandy also called for completing the doubling of the Mangalore-Shornur line by 2003.

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