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Southern Railway, SETC struggle to meet heavy rush

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NO ROOM: A large crowd at the Egmore railway station on Friday.
NO ROOM: A large crowd at the Egmore railway station on Friday.

S. Vydhianathan

Flights to various destinations from Chennai also booked

CHENNAI: Southern Railway and the State Express Transport Corporation (SETC) are struggling to cope with heavy Pongal and Sabarimala pilgrim rush.

Southern Railway will operate 58 special trains between January 13 and 21 to various destinations, especially southern districts. Besides special trains, coaches in major trains has been increased to 22 or 24 as against the normal 18. Even then, the waitlisted passengers cannot be accommodated. Each train has a waitlist of at least 200 passengers.

Sections saturated

Though the administration wants to operate more specials, line capacity is coming in the way. The Chennai-Nagercoil and Chennai-Jolarpet sections are saturated. It is difficult to run additional services, as it will affect track maintenance.

Passengers say the number of unreserved compartments in special trains is fewer compared to reserved coaches. They want the administration to run trains with more sitting accommodation.

The State-owned Express Transport Corporation is operating 100 special buses, including 7 A\C buses to meet the rush, in addition to its regular services. All of them are getting a good response, says an official of the Corporation.

“Though the corporation could not match omnibuses in providing a comfortable journey, middle and lower middle class travellers patronise our services as the fare is less.”

Omnibuses have become a part of the State’s transport network. On an average about 500 buses are being operated to various destinations in the south. They charge at least 50 per cent more than train or bus fare. For example, the fare for Tiruchi and Madurai is Rs.350 and Rs.450 as against Rs.165 and Rs.195 by train.

An omnibus operator justifies the fare saying every year, the Government hikes tax on their vehicles, forcing them to pass on the burden to passengers. As competition is stiff, they have to provide more comforts to passengers, besides maintaining punctuality.

Flights to various destinations from Chennai are also full. An airline official says even executive class tickets are not available for Tiruchi, Madurai and Cochin-bound flights for the next one week.

A suggestion made by railway authorities to meet the growing passenger traffic is doubling the Chennai-Nagercoil BG line with the State part-financing the scheme. That will help to increase the train services substantially, which, in turn, will ease the pressure on road traffic.

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