As the presentation of yet another Railway Budget approaches, Kerala continues to have a host of grievances on the railway services front, including inadequate services, delays in track electrification and doubling and provision of amenities. Our readers respond to what should be the Railway Ministry's foremost priorities this time with respect to Kerala:
Wrong priorities, lack of vision, and spineless attitude, these are all we had and rightfully, we are left with an underdeveloped rail system in Kerala. After every Railway budget, we lament the lost projects. But we never do the proper homework before the budget or for the future.
We argue for some railway lines. Meagre amounts are allocated for their survey and they are forgotten thereafter. We never realise that the survey is at the cost of important and essential projects. At lease in future, we should be prepared to demand what we really need.
First priority should be given to doubling the line from Thiruvananthapuram to Palakkad and Mangalore. Second should be the electrification of these lines. Work on these trunk lines should be finished by 2007 and sufficient funds should be allocated in the current budget itself for its completion.
The third priority should be starting fast trains (EMUs like in Mumbai) on these routes. This will attract more commuters and transport buses plying on these routes can be reduced and put to work on feeder routes.
A ring railway service (like in Delhi) should be started in Thiruvananthapuram and Ernakulam.
The Railways may ask the State Government for funds for the construction of overbridges and for acquiring land.
The Government should find the money needed (We were ready to mobilise even Rs.12,000 crores for the utopian Express Highway).
Put across facts
Rail services have not been increased in proportion to Kerala's needs. The Railway ministry has shown a step-motherly attitude towards development of railways. It has gone to the extent of bifurcating a division so there is no further scope for another division in the State in future. As one MP has pointed out, there is a lobby working behind the scenes to sabotage the State's interests and serve the interests of Tamil Nadu.
Rail services in Kerala cannot be put on the right rails, unless and until our voices are heard by those at the helm of affairs.
First and foremost, priority should be given to the widening of the Kayamkulam-Ernakulam line via Kottayam so that train services in this sector can be increased considerably. Second priority should be given to the sanctioning of the Angamaly-Sabarimala line and also its extension to Thiruvananthapuram via Ranni, Pathanamthitta. In addition, tourism and transport of goods will be augmented. Pilgrims to Sabarimala will also be greatly benefited. The Railway Ministry should see that more train services are started from Kerala to various destinations.
Need for joint effort
Our MPs should visit the railway stations in their constituencies and collect data regarding passenger traffic, ticket collection, seat allocation, number of trains, passenger amenities, status of stations, conditions of bogies etc. They should arrive at the average earning per kilometre/earning per station/earning per person and length of railway lines per thousand of population etc. and compare these facts with those of the other States.
Once these facts are made known to the authorities, surely Kerala will be allotted more trains, railway lines and other facilities.
Our MPs raise their voices once the Railway Budget is announced. This should change.
It is ridiculous to permit a train travelling with 80 per cent of the compartments vacant and 20 per cent heavily packed for the down trains only because of the fact that they are reserved compartments or superfast trains.
One can understand that some discomfort will be caused to the reserved passengers, but when most of them get down beyond Ernakulam, what is the logic in not admitting season ticket holders or ordinary ticket travellers to travel in reserved coaches from Ernakulam to Thiruvananthapuram, at least on single line traffic routes? For what are these trains running other than to cater to passengers?
The Railways should complete all pending projects of electrification and doubling within this year.
The State Government should give all the required assistance. The dream of Kerala for a Railway zone in the State should come true this year.
A. Jacob Sahayam
The main problem in the State with regard to rail services is the overcrowding in the general compartments of Express trains. After the recent bus fare hike, the situation has become worse.
To avoid this, the Railway should introduce more trains. S.N. Pillai