Falling boulders pose a threat to rail safety

TOUGH TASK: Workers removing a boulder from the track near Ambaturai in Madurai division recently.  

Staff Reporter

MADURAI: Come rain and the broad gauge line between Kodaikanal Road and Ambadurai in Madurai division is plagued by the problem of boulders falling on the railway track.

The line, tunnelling through a mountain, is part of the busy Chennai Egmore-Nagercoil corridor.

There have been at least a dozen recent instances of boulders falling on this stretch, better known as Ambaturai cutting, disrupting traffic.

Last week, three huge boulders, weighing several tonnes each, fell on the track forcing Southern Railway to cancel all Chennai-bound trains from the southern destinations for two days.

Amid heavy rain, engineers used high-power cranes to remove the boulders.

Not preventable

On many occasions, patrolmen have averted accidents by stopping express trains from running into big stones.

"Overhanging boulders are loosened by the seepage of rainwater and fall due to vibrations triggered by the rolling stock. A team of trackmen has been deployed to monitor the situation. Speed restrictions have been imposed," a railway official said.

"Often the boulders are so big that we have to use explosives to destroy them. The trackmen risk their lives by patrolling the track round-the-clock. Since the track utilisation here has crossed 160 per cent, there is less time for corrective measures. Laying an alternative track is a viable solution," he said.

Divisional Railway Manager B.N. Rajasekhar said steps had been taken to cut out hanging rocks.