CHENNAI: Off the railway network and neglected for nearly a decade, Anna Nagar railway station is set for a fresh lease of life. However, local residents hoping for a resumption of passenger services will be disappointed, as the single railway line between Anna Nagar and Padi will instead be converted into a dedicated testing facility for Integral Coach Factory (ICF).
Between 2003-2007, Southern Railway operated trains from Anna Nagar to Beach, but the service was withdrawn due to poor patronage. Since then, the track has remained largely unused, except for the movement of newly manufactured coaches between the shell and furnishing divisions of ICF.
A premier production unit of the railways, ICF manufactures a range of coaches, including Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) ones, in addition to self-propelled train sets (SPTs) such as electrical multiple units (EMU).
Presently, the factory does not have a dedicated testing facility for SPTs. “We do limited testing in a 300-metre track located inside the factory. But, that is not enough,” said a senior officer, on condition of anonymity. “We are unable to fully test the advanced train control management system of SPTs, which use the latest three-phased insulated-gate bipolar transistor technology. A track of at least one kilometre is required to evaluate its performance and update the software accordingly,” he added.
In the absence of such a facility, EMUs and Diesel Electrical Multiple Units (DEMUs) rolled out by ICF are dispatched to respective railway zones, where they are tested before being commissioned into service.
But that is set to change now, with the existing track between Anna Nagar and Padi (measuring around one km) slated to be upgraded for facilitating the testing process. The project, estimated to cost Rs 1.5 crore, will involve straightening a culvert near Padi. Already, there is an overhead electric line carrying the required 25-kilovolt power.
“If we are to build a new test track, it will easily cost around Rs 6 crores. Since existing infrastructure is to be used, the expenditure will be greatly reduced. Besides, we can ensure the much-neglected station is well maintained,” the officer said.Local residents, who are accustomed to seeing the station being used by anti-social elements during late evenings, however, want a revival of local trains. “It is our long pending request, as it would enable us to get connected with Arakkonam and Beach lines. We are now talking about integrating various modes of public transport and hence, it does not make sense to waste the asset,” said D Pandirajan, a resident of nearby Kambar colony.
But, Southern Railway is in no position to accede to the request. When contacted Divisional Railway Manager (Chennai) Naveen Gulati said, “At present, there is no commercial viability for operating passenger services. We will be reviewing that situation at periodic intervals. In the meantime, ICF would be using that facility.”