KOCHI: The Ernakulam Old Railway Station located near the High Court cuts a sorry figure today. Built by Maharaja Rama Varma XV, the railway station was the first to go operational in Kochi and commands an important place in the city’s history. But wait, there is hope. For after years of delay, the Railways has begun track renovations at the station. “Even though the work is eight years late, it is still a welcome move.
We had been demanding the station’s renovation and organised several agitations, dharnas, satyagrahas and demonstrations, besides approaching people’s representatives,” said K P Harihara Kumar, convenor, Ernakulam Old Railway Station Vikasana Samithy. Full-fledged renovation work would take place only after the 27 families who encroached upon the Railways’ lands are rehabilitated, Kumar said. “That is the Kochi Corporation’s work. We had approached the Mayor in this regard following which Rs 2 crore was set aside in last year’s budget for the purpose. That was all,” he said, adding the corporation needs to speed up the process of shifting the encroachers.
“How can a civic body which looks after the city’s interests ignore the historic importance of one of its landmarks? The railway station is 110 years old and has the distinction of hosting Mahatma Gandhi and other big leaders of those days,” Kumar said. Division councillor Sudha Dileepkumar said though the Corporation had promised to clear the encroachments two years ago, nothing was done. “The renovation of a heritage railway station hangs in balance due to the civic body’s apathy,” she said.
The century-old tracks, which were buried under mud, silt and weed due to disuse, are being renovated from Pachalam to the station. Kumar said the Railways had sanctioned `1.45 crore for the purpose.A railway officer said the tracks are being removed and new ones are being laid including the sleepers. “As of now, the Railways will carry out the track renovation. The renovation of the station depends on when the corporation rehabilitates the encroachers,” the officer said.
A promise gone bad
Harihara Kumar said, former Union Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu had agreed to renovate the Ernakulam Old Railway Station and even sanctioned an amount. “However, it did not take off due to the apathy of the Railways authorities and the civic body,” he said. “It was said a ticket counter will be opened at the station, a station manager will be appointed and the station will be converted into a hub for passenger trains. It had been downgraded from a passenger hub to a goods halt. Later, even that stopped,” Kumar said. He said once the station becomes a passenger hub, the commuters’ rush faced at Ernakulam Junction can be somewhat taken care of. “Passenger trains going towards the north can be routed through here,” he said.