The decision of the Southern Railway to operate the Karaikal–Chennai–Karaikal overnight express train through its original route via Tiruvarur and Mayiladuthurai has stirred up a hornet’s nest once again, with the travelling public of Thanjavur district demanding introduction of a new train from Thanjavur to Chennai on the main line to meet the increasing demand.
The Karaikal–Chennai express is to run in the shorter route from October 11. Various consumer organisations, traders associations and rail users associations of Thanjavur district have sought the introduction of a new train with immediate effect, as Karaikal–Chennai express was a comfortable train for the travellers of Thanjavur and Kumbakonam towns on both the directions. They have also demanded re-introduction of all the trains that were operated on the main line before BG conversion works were taken up. When the main line remained a MG section, the railways operated Rameswaram–Chennai express (boat mail), Tuticorin–Chennai Janata express, Tiruchi–Chennai Cholan express, Madurai–Chennai parcel passenger, Shenkottah–Chennai fast passenger, Tiruchi–Chennai passenger and Thanjavur–Chennai passenger.
At a time when there is a consistent demand for operation of more trains on the main line, the diversion of Karaikal – Chennai express will badly hit the commuters, say people of Thanjavur district.
The passengers of main line were getting around 1,500 berths in the above daily trains. After gauge conversion, only 220 berths are available now in daily overnight trains of Rameswaram express, Karaikal express and Mannai express, according to a memorandum submitted by the Thanjavur District Rail Users Association to the General Manager of the Southern Railway.
The diversion of the Karaikal – Chennai express via Tiruvarur and Mayiladuthurai will further aggravate the problem of the commuters of Thanjavur district, A. Giri, vice president of the association, pointed out in the memorandum. The reservation and unreserved ticketing system statistics at Kumbakonam, Thanjavur and Papanasam stations will support the fact, he adds.
There is also an apprehension of commuters of Thanjavur district that the Mannai express too will be diverted via Tiruvarur and Mayiladuthurai. With more seat allocation to Tiruchi based passengers, the entire 10 coaches of the Kumbakonam – Chennai Rockfort express is not being totally earmarked to the passengers of Kumbakonam and Thanjavur, he says. Moreover, the people of Kumbakonam complain that while the Chennai-bound Rockfort express leaves much earlier in the evening, the Chennai- bound Rameshwaram express and the Mannai express arrive at Kumbakonam late in the night, causing much inconvenience. Hence, the demand for a new train at a convenient time. The association has also pleaded for the re-introduction of the Chennai Egmore – Shenkottah fast passenger and also the Chennai Egmore-Tuticorin Janata Express, which were serving the people of Thanjavur district well.
Thanjavur and Kumbakonam are well known pilgrim centres. Further Kumbakonam has good business links with various places across the country. The Association has pleaded for the establishment of coach maintenance facility at Kumbakonam. Being an intermediate station, operation of various trains and convenience of the passengers of this delta district is a great concern, since coach maintenance facility exists only at Tiruchi Junction. Adequate vacant space is available at Kumbakonam and vacant land space available at nearby stations such as Darasuram, Tirunageswaram may be utilized for this purpose if needed, Mr. Giri says.