CHENNAI: Southern Railway may complete the ongoing gauge conversion of the Villupuram - Mayiladuthurai section (122km) by August 31 this year, according to a revised schedule of works.

This section is part of the Villupuram -Thanjavur conversion project. The stretch between Thanjavur and Mayiladuthurai has been completed and opened for traffic.

According to a senior official, conversion of the Villupuram - Cuddalore (47 km) and Sirkazhi - Mayiladuthurai (20 km) was over. Freight is being operated between Sirkazhi and Mayiladuthurai and light engines are being operated from Villupuram to Cuddalore. Work is going on in full swing between Cuddalore and Sirkazhi (55 km).

One reason for the delay in completing the conversion work, according to a senior railway official here, is the number of bridges. There are 32 major and 290 minor bridges, including across the Coleroon. Except three major bridges, including the one at Coleroon, work on other bridges was over. So there would not be any difficulty in completing the project by August-end.

Other works, which are likely to be completed during the current year are conversion of Podanur - Coimbatore (6 km); Tiruvannamalai - Vellore Cantonment (84 km); Villupuram - Tiruvannamalai (66 km); Manamadurai - Virudhunagar (67 km); and Pollachi - Palakkad (58 km); doubling of Kodai Road - Madurai (40 km); Ennore - Attipattu (6 km); Irgur - Coimbatore (18 km); Tiruvallur - Arakkonam (27 km) third line by RVNL; and construction of new lines from Nagapattinam to Velankanni (10 km); Nagore - Karaikal (10 km); and Salem - Namakkal (51 km). For completing these works and other ongoing projects, including construction of road over bridges and safety-related works, Southern Railway requires about Rs.1700 crore during the current financial year. The Railway Ministry has made an ad hoc allotment of Rs.775 crore. The zone hopes to get additional funds once a new government took charge at the Centre, the official added.