Staff Reporter

TIRUNELVELI: Minister of State for Railways E. Ahamed flagged off the inaugural special of Tirunelveli–Hapa Bi-weekly Superfast Express, which was announced in the 2009–2010 Railway Budget, in a function held at Tirunelveli Junction on Tuesday.

With this, all 12 new trains announced for Southern Railway in the last Railway Budget have been inaugurated within the same fiscal.

The Tirunelveli–Hapa Bi-weekly Superfast Express, which will be initially operated as a weekly express train, will be converted into bi-weekly in near future based on the patronage.

The route

It will leave Tirunelveli on every Mondays at 5.45 a.m. and reach Hapa in Gujarat at 2 a.m. on Wednesdays.

It will proceed via Nagercoil, Thiruvananthapuram Central, Kollam, Kayankulam, Alappuzha, Ernakulam, Aluva, Thrissur, Shoranur, Kozhikode, Kannur, Kasargod, Mangalore, Udupi, Karwar, Madgaon, Ratnagiri, Panvel, Vasavi Road, Vapi, Surat, Ankleshwar, Vadodara, Ahmedabad, Surendra Nagar and Rajkot.

In the return direction, the train will leave Hapa at 9.15 p.m. on Fridays and will reach Tirunelveli at 5.30 p.m. on Sundays.

Ticket fare for this train is Rs.571(second class berth) and Rs.1,550 (for third AC).

Like the recently introduced Tirunelveli–Bilaspur Superfast Express, the Tirunelveli–Hapa Bi-weekly Superfast Express too will serve the travelling public of Southern Tamil Nadu and entire Kerala to reach important destinations on the west coast, western and central parts of the country since it will traverse the States of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat.

It will help the passengers to reach pilgrim centres such as Thiruvananthapuram and Udupi, picturesque places with tourism importance such as Ernakulam, Karwar, Madgaon and Ratnagiri and commercial centres like Mangalore, Surat and Ahmedabad.

Flagging off the new train, Mr. Ahamed said all promises given by Minister for Railways Mamata Banerjee regarding the introduction of new trains during the previous fiscal while presenting the Railway Budget for 2009–2010 had been fulfilled as all the trains had been inaugurated within a year.

“We have given you two new trains i.e. Tirunelveli–Bilaspur Superfast Express and the Tirunelveli–Hapa Bi-weekly Superfast Express and have extended the Madurai–Jammu Tawi Express up to Tirunelveli, which all should enjoy excellent patronage so that it will encourage us to increase the frequency (of the service) in near future,” Mr. Ahamed noted.

The Southern Railways, which had already allotted Rs.1.80 crore for executing various development measures, would pump in similar amount during this fiscal for incorporating more passenger-friendly amenities.

The ongoing gauge conversion between Tirunelveli and Tenkasi would be completed by April 2011 as there was no paucity for funds, the minister said.

“Expedite track doubling work”

Minister for Information Technology Poongothai Aladi Aruna appealed to the Union Minister to expedite doubling of the track up to Tirunelveli while Mayor A.L. Subramanian and Tirunelveli MLA N. Maalairaja wanted to have all tickets of Nellai Superfast Express be reserved for this region, from where thousands of people were going to Chennai everyday.

The Mayor also urged the officials to run the Chendur Express between Chennai and Tiruchendur on daily basis.

Tirunelveli MP S.S. Ramasubbu and General Manager, Southern Railways, Deepak Krishan spoke.

Earlier, a group of Congressmen picked-up an argument with the officials of Southern Railway for not printing the photographs of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi in the banners and advertisements issued in connection with this function. However, they were pacified.