Special Correspondent

Test drive on the 37-km section likely to be conducted by the weekend

Work on at hectic pace to make electric traction operational by March 31Electrification to Pondicherry Harbour shelved for the time beingNumber of services looks set for increase after work is over

VILLUPURAM: Electrification of the railway track between Villupuram and Pondicherry is nearing completion, and in all likelihood, the test drive on this section will be conducted by the weekend.

The employees of the Best and Crompton Engineering Projects Ltd, which is executing the project, are working at a feverish pitch to make the electric traction operational by March 31.

A spokesman of the company told The Hindu that as conceived, the electrification was meant to for a total distance of 75 km, ie., from Villupuram to Pondicherry Harbour.

However, in the first phase only the 37-km stretch linking Villupuram to Pondicherry had been taken up. The remaining portion had been shelved for the time being.

He said the company had now deployed 80 technicians on the Villupuram-Pondicherry section, from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m., and they were involved in connecting the contact wire to the catenary with a dropper.

Uninterrupted power supply

The spokesman further said the civil works such as erection of electric poles and brackets were already over.

The traction would get an uninterrupted supply of 25 kv of electricity from the Villupuram sub-station. The switch board would be set up at Chinnababusamudhram. Even if there were disruption in power supply, it would be restored within five to six minutes.

At present train services were being operated from Pondicherry to Tirupati, Chennai and to Villupuram (two passengers, up and down), and after electrification, the number of services looks set to be increased.

The train services on this section were stalled for about a year owing to gauge conversion. The track electrification that follows on its heel assumes significance because in the 2006 Railway Budget provision has been made to run a weekly express from Pondicherry to Bhubaneswar.

It would also speed up the trains, and save the fossil fuel. It is hoped that with traction electrification the citizens of Pondicherry would benefit a great deal, and Villupuram junction would serve as the nodal point for their onward journey, either to the north or to the south.