Staff Reporter

KOCHI: The demand for a dedicated Railway Zone for Kerala is snowballing, since it is the best way to ensure that the State gets its share of rail-development projects and new trains.

A perusal of the continuous neglect shown by the Centre to railway-development in the State is proof enough that Kerala cannot do without a special zone. In the absence of a zone for the State, projects are held up indefinitely and officials have to frequently travel to the Southern Railway office in Chennai, to get sanction and funds for even routine projects.

All other southern-Indian States have special zones and States like Maharashtra and West Bengal have three zones each. “The zonal offices are delegated with wide powers to plan and finalise projects and hence have sufficient funds at their disposal. The divisional offices (like in Thiruvananthapuram and Palakkad) have been tasked with only executing them. For example, officials have to currently run from pillar to post at the Chennai office to get the nod to open an additional ticket counter or for getting funds for projects,” said a high-ranking Railway official, on the condition of anonymity.

A zonal office based in Kerala would be able to exert pressure on the Centre, on matters like sanctioning new trains and bettering passenger amenities. New daily trains to Bangalore, Mumbai etc., remain a far cry, despite the huge and ever-increasing demand from Keralites based there. This has resulted in people being forced to cram themselves into luxury buses and pay almost double the sleeper-class fare, to travel to places like Bangalore. The absence of toilets in the buses makes matters worse.

There is also urgent need to convert a few railway stations in the suburbs of busy hubs like Kochi as satellite stations, since the major stations are facing space constraints.