Work on 37 km through Kottayam still incomplete
Public resentment is brewing against the Southern Railway due to the tardy pace of track doubling through Kottayam and Alappuzha.
Doubling of 37 km of the total 114 km track through Kottayam has not been completed, though works began as early as 2001. Senior Railway officials said it would take at least two more years to complete doubling process through the district, since 3.50 acres of land had not been acquired in the 19-km-long Ettumanoor-Chingavanam stretch. In Alappuzha, only the 13-km-long Haripad-Kayamkulam stretch of the total 100-km route has been doubled.
Kerala Railway Users’ Assocation (KERUA) president Paul Manvettom said the 17-year delay to double-track through Kottayam had contributed to the slowing down of train movement throughout Kerala.
“It is noteworthy that the Ernakulam-Shornur railway line, which passed through erstwhile Kochi and Travancore kingdoms was constructed in two years time during the time of kings. While the State government is not proactive in acquiring land, the Railway is extremely slow in laying tracks and constructing bridges on the corridor,” he said.
Thrissur Railway Passengers’ Association general secretary P. Krishnakumar said the inordinate delay in doubling track through Kottayam and Alappuzha was affecting the introduction of new short and long-distance trains from Kerala.
“A single contractor must be entrusted with pending track works. It must be implemented in mission mode like the laying of rail line to Vallarpadam Container Transshipment Terminal, which included construction of India’s longest rail overbridge. The project was executed in record time,” he said.
Mr. Krishnakumar also demanded increasing the speed of trains entering loop lines of railway stations from 15 kmph to 40 kmph as was done in other States, to speed up train movement in Kerala. He sought the doubling of the less than one-km track from Shornur Junction towards both Palakkad and Thrissur.
Meanwhile, the Commissioner for Railway Safety (CRS) is slated to inspect the second track in 10-km-long Changanassery-Chingavanam section in the first week of December, following which it will be opened to traffic before Christmas. The 8-km-long Ettumanoor-Kuruppanthara section will follow suit, by March 2019. The two corridors were scheduled for opening in March 2018, said Railway sources.
The mud to raise the level of land for track doubling is available in Kottayam, while it is being transported from Kottayam to Alappuzha for the purpose. Doubling of the 18-km-long Ambalapuzha-Haripad stretch is expected to be completed by 2020. Stalemate persists over doubling of another 69 km of track between Ambalapuzha and Ernakulam, since the Railway wants the State government to fund the cost of land acquisition and half the cost of track laying. It might be a tough proposition since the State was unlikely to spare such big amounts for a railway project, said official sources.
They added that there was no escape from doubling track through both Kottayam and Alappuzha on a war footing. “Any further delay will increase cost of land acquisition and track laying. It is also an operational necessity, to ensure faster movement of trains and introduction of new trains. The average speed of even express trains in Kerala is now around 45 kms per hour, though most tracks have a design speed of over 90 kmph. Trains can move faster through Alappuzha since the gradient is much flatter than in Kottayam.”
A senior Railway official said stations were being remodelled so that platforms were in the main line. Trains could thus call at stations at faster speed, by not entering loop lines where there are speed curbs. Trains will thus be able to save seven minutes per station. Officials manning many stations are still unwilling to receive and despatch a pair of trains simultaneously.