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Fifty years in State ‘integration’

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Path-breaking: The then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru laying the foundation stone for the railway line in 1952.
Path-breaking: The then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru laying the foundation stone for the railway line in 1952.

S. Anil Radhakrishnan

The rail line between Kollam and Kottayam, which strengthened the physical, mental and moral integration of Travancore, Cochin and Malabar, completes 50 years on Sunday.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The 90-km rail line between Kollam and Kottayam, which paved the way for the strengthening of the physical, mental and moral integration of the three units of Kerala, Travancore, Cochin and Malabar, completes 50 years on Sunday.

It was on January 6, 1958, that the then Governor of Kerala B. Ramakrishna Rao who declared open the line by pulling a lever to set the first train in motion amidst loud applause at a function held in Kollam. Dr. Rao said that the rail link marked the fulfilment of “one of the keenest desires of the people of Kerala”.

The then Union Railway Minister Lal Bahadur Sastri could not attend the inauguration as he was preoccupied in north India. Though the original idea of a rail link between Kollam and Kottayam was envisaged in 1922, it could be fulfilled only in 1958.

General Manager, Southern Railway, T.A. Joseph, noted at the inaugural function that with a zeal equal to that displayed in the building of the Assam rail link, the rail link builders overcame the difficulties of a terrain “criss-crossed by perennial streams, hills and dales and backwater creeks”.

A hundred bridges had to be built calling the best from the divers from Kozhikode who went under water to depths of 70 ft and worked for three hours at a stretch.

The demand to link Kollam with Ernakulam by a rail line to improve trade and commerce through Kochi Harbour was there for long time. However, the metre gauge project between Ernakulam and Kollam commenced only on December 24, 1952, with the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru kicking off the work.

The inauguration was attended by the then ruler of erstwhile Travancore Chitra Tirunal Balarama Varma, Chief Minister Pattom Thanu Pillai, Union Railway Minster Lal Bahadur Shastri. Incidentally, Rajiv Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi accompanied the Prime Minister.

The metre gauge railway line between Kottayam and Ernakulam was opened in October 1956 for traffic and the Kottayam-Kollam railway section two years later.

At present, double line exists between Thiruvananthapuram and Kayamkulam. The doubling work between Kayamkulam and Kottayam is in progress and it is expected to be completed in two to three years. Starting with the metre gauge system in steam traction in 1958, the railways have introduced AC traction with the electrification of the Ernakulam-Thiruvananthapruam section.

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