Commuters bear the brunt as railways sit on proposal to deploy more coaches

Currently, only 14-coach rakes are allowed to be deployed in the Punalur-Sengottai Ghat section. Representative image/Shutterstock/Amitali

Pathanamthitta: Passengers on overcrowded trains operating on the Punalur-Sengottai section are suffering as the railway has not responded to the request for deploying more coaches on trains like Palaruvi Express. Currently, only 14-coach rakes are allowed to be deployed in the Punalur-Sengottai Ghat section. If more cars are to be allowed, then the Lucknow-based Railway Designs and Standards Organization (RDSO) needs to conduct the trial run first. Though the Operating Department of the Southern Railway handed over a letter, requesting to conduct the trial run several months ago, the RDSO officials are yet to act. 

The Chief of the Commission of Railway Safety (CRS) also cited in its report earlier that there was no safety issue in increasing the number of coaches in trains operating in the Punalur-Sengottai section if more powerful engines are deployed and the extra cars are in proportion to the engine power. However, no follow-up action has been taken so far. If the RDSO carries out the trial run and submits a report, then the CRS nod can be obtained without much difficulty. There should be at least 20 coaches in trains, instead of the current 14 coaches if the heavy rush of passengers in the section needs to be addressed.

“The railways should take immediate measures to increase the number of coaches in the Tirunelveli-Palakkad Palaruvi Express and the Madurai-Guruvayur Express,” said P K Krishna Kumar, Secretary, Thrissur Railway Passengers Association.

The conversion of the Kollam-Sengottai-Tirunelveli meter gauge to broad gauge was done at a cost of Rs 400 crore and the line was commissioned in March 2018. However, the trains couldn’t even attain the speed that was permitted in the old meter gauge. Since the nod to deploy more coaches is yet to be received, the services of trains terminating at Kollam and Sengottai can’t be extended as well. The Madurai division too is not taking any measures to increase the train speed in the Kollam-Punalur section to 100 kmph. Much travel time could be saved if the speed of the trains along the section is increased.

Meanwhile, electrification works along the section are progressing at a snail’s pace. A dispute over the electrification of three bridges is resulting in considerable delay. A decision is yet to be taken by the higher officials in Chennai as to whether the electric poles of the bridges between Punalur and Bhagavatipuram needed to be separately piled in the ground or constructed in their bridge structures themselves. The works could be finished in just three months upon resumption.

Meanwhile, demands have been pouring in from various quarters to start Kochuveli-Rameshwaram and Tirunelveli-Madgaon Express trains, besides the Kollam-Tirunelveli and Kollam-Pazhani MEMU services upon completion of electrification works. However, the Madurai division is not showing any interest in taking up related works like the construction of a third platform in Punalur station.

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