Just doubling? Time to think of a third line
There is some good news for railway passengers and goods dealers in Kerala. An amount of Rs 15.1 lakh has been sanctioned for conducting preliminary engineering-cum-traffic surveys (PETS) for laying a third line in the Ernakulam-Shoranur (84 km) and Shoranur-Mangalore (327 km) routes. The PETS is conducted to find out the detailed engineering possibility and feasibility of a new track, said railway authorities.
“A survey for constructing the third track was carried out when the Vallarpadam International Container Terminal (VICT) project was planned years ago. But its possibility was ruled out saying that the present two tracks can accommodate more trains if required. However, at present, the occupancy levels of both the tracks are nearly 130% and it is high time we constructed a third line,“ said a senior officer from the Thiruvananthapuram railway division.
Officers said that once the doubling work in the Kayamkulam-Kottayam-Ernakulam and Kayamkulam-Alappuzha-Ernakulam stretches are over, the train density in the Ernakulam-Shoranur stretch will be difficult to manage. Also, if the third line is ready, the freight movement till Ernakulam from Mangaluru, Bengaluru and Chennai can be accelerated. “More importantly, at present the maximum possible speed on the Ernakulam-Shoranur stretch is 80 km per hour.This is due to the geographical conditions of the area. However, the third line can be constructed with all the modern civil, mechanical and signal-telecommunication facilities and we can have a dedicated line where we can attain speeds up to 130 kmph,“ said the officer.
It was in 1902 that a metre gauge was commissioned in Shoranur-Ernakulam stretch. In 1938, it was converted to broad gauge. The second line in the Shoranur-Ernakulam stretch was commissioned in 1987. The electrification was completed in 1999.
WE STILL HAVE ROOM FOR MORE FACILITIES, CONNECTIVITY
The state definitely has the legitimate right to argue for higher railway density, said Centre for Socio Economic and Environmental Studies, Kochi director N Ajith Kumar. “Kerala's raildensity, defined as total length of lines operated (km) per 1,000 sq km, is only 0.03 against the national average of 0.05.The railway route length of Kerala is just 1.6% of the total route length in India. This is less than the share of the state in country's population and country's geographical areas,“ said Kumar.
“The state definitely has the legitimate right to argue for higher railway density. But in the absence of vast tracts of land and high land value in the state, increasing the length of railway tracks has always been a problem. It is in this context that we need to view the new priority setting by the Indian Railways,“ he added. “As the railway density is low, most of the tracks are running beyond capacity, Kumar observed. “The track doubling work is at a slow pace. The automatic signalling system and other changes for quicker movement of trains will help the passengers not only in the form of faster travel but also by facilitating the running of more number of trains,“ he said.
“In the short run, we need to think of projects for improving the current track capacity utilization along with track doubling.It is heartening to note that the budget has announced track doubling in ChengannurChingavanam stretch, Amabalappuzha-Haripad stretch and Ernakulam-Kumbalam stretch and nominal allocations for a few other stretches“ said Kumar. Once the track doubling in Thiruvannathapuram-Ernakulam stretch (both via Alappuzha and Kottayam) is completed, it may be feasible to start a suburban train service in this stretch. Kerala, being a state with hardly any distinction between rural and urban areas, is fit for starting suburban service. Suburban train service is going to be more cost effective than the monorail project, he pointed out.
The Kerala government should liaison with other states to get more long distance trains to the state, Kumar said. “The Union railway minister has postponed the decision on new trains and new tracks. In the argument for new long distance trains to Kerala, we need to liaison with other states through which it passes. For instance, Kerala has been facing large inflow of migrants from Assam, West Bengal and Odisha. Trains from any of these states may be equally beneficial to these states. Already, the trains from these states are running in full capacity. The state should jointly lobby with these states for new trains,“ he said.
(Times of India dt 27-2-2015)