Post-gauge conversion, Tiruvarur-Karaikudi track lies wasted

Tiruvarur - Karaikudi Demu at Tiruvarur.  

It is more than a year-and-a-half ago that the Tiruvarur-Karaikudi stretch was converted into broad gauge. Any wonder that the prolonged delay in resumption of regular train services on the 150-km section via Thiruthuraipoondi, Pattukottai, Peravurani and Aranthangi has caused huge disappointment to rail travellers especially those in the east coast of the delta region.

The demand for resumption of rail services has resurfaced yet again with the Pattukottai Taluk Railway Passengers’ Welfare Association reiterating its plea for early re-introduction of train services on the stretch that covers parts of Tiruvarur, Thanjavur, Pudukottai and Sivaganga districts.

Renewing the appeal, association president N. Jayaraman and secretary V. Viveganantham has sent a memorandum to the Minister of Railways requesting him to consider the long-pending demand that will benefit the people of the east coast of the delta. A copy of the memorandum has been sent to Tamil Maanila Congress president and Rajya Sabha member G.K. Vasan.

The demand has been brought to the notice of the railway administration at a time when train services are being resumed on select routes in the wake of relaxations announced during the pandemic.

The memorandum says the Tiruvarur-Pattukottai-Karaikudi is one of the oldest railway lines laid as a metre gauge during the colonial period. It was taken up for gauge conversion more than six years ago. Passenger train services on Tiruvarur-Karaikudi section were completely stopped during 2012 to enable conversion of the stretch to broad gauge.

The gauge conversion work took several years and was completed in portions: from Pattukottai to Karaikudi via Aranthangi (73.4 km) and then Tiruvarur to Pattukottai via Thiruthuraipoondi.

The Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS), Southern Circle, Bengaluru, who conducted mandatory inspection for three days from Pattukottai to Karaikudi following completion of gauge conversion works accorded statutory clearance and authorised the section for operation of passenger and freight trains in March 2018. A year later, the CRS inspected the remaining stretch from Tiruvarur to Pattukottai via Thiruthuraipoondi and accorded statutory clearance for operation of passenger and freight trains in April 2019.

Following repeated demands from travellers for resumption of rail services, the Tiruchi Railway Division initially operated Diesel Electric Multiple Unit (DEMU) specials with minimum coaches on Tiruvarur- Karaikudi-Tiruvarur stretch by deploying mobile gatekeepers on board due to non-deployment of regular gatekeepers at over 70 manned gates falling along the lengthy stretch.

However, the DEMU trains hardly found any patronage due to the lengthy duration of the journey. This was because the train stopped ahead of every manned gate and the mobile gatekeeper alighted from the train to close the gate for the train to pass through. The train would stop again for the mobile gatekeeper to board the coach. The exercise took a long time and the time taken by the DEMU trains to reach the destination was nearly six hours, which did not go down well with regular commuters.

Further the DEMU trains did not have toilets causing great inconvenience to travellers especially senior citizens. They were suspended and the stretch has not seen any passenger service since the lockdown was announced in March-end due to the pandemic.

“Introduction of rail services has been delayed in this section after completion of gauge conversion due to non-deployment of gatekeepers and other staff,” says Mr. Jayaraman in the memorandum.

“The east coast delta area is being neglected without any rail service to Chennai. Elders, women, traders, agriculturists and fishermen are the most affected due to lack of train facility to Chennai for the past 14 years,” the memorandum further points out.

“Despite the fact that crores of money have been spent by the railway administration for laying the new broad gauge track and creating new assets as part of gauge conversion, Tiruvarur-Karaikudi BG section has remained completely non-utilised due to non-deployment of gatekeepers leading to delay in resumption of train services,” adds Mr. Jayaraman.

He has urged authorities to address the issue at the earliest especially since festivals are round the corner.

Mr. Jayaraman and a few other office-bearers of the association has also raised the issue with Southern Railway General Manager John Thomas during his visit to Tiruchi raillay junction in December last.

The association has urged the Railway Minister to reintroduce an overnight daily express train between Chennai and Karaikudi via Tiruvarur, Pattukottai and operation of passenger trains between Mayiladuthurai and Karaikudi on the route.

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2020 5:42:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/post-gauge-conversion-tiruvarur-karaikudi-track-lies-wasted/article32914448.ece

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