As an Onam gift for the rail passengers in Central Travancore and eastern parts of this district, the Punalur-Guruvayur-Punalur fast passenger via Kottayam (Train no.56366/56365) chugged off from Punalur on Saturday.
Flagging off the inaugural service, Minister of State for Labour Kodikunnil Suresh said that the train would be extended to Madurai in future, once the Kollam-Chenkotta gauge conversion was complete.
Thus the train would connect the two major pilgrim centres in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, he said.
He also said that DEMU (Diesel Multiple Unit) service would be launched in Kollam-Punalur section within the next three months.
The inaugural service was conducted on ‘open timings’ with rousing receptions given at various stations. The regular service will commence from Sunday.
The train which will leave Punalur at 5.30 pm will reach Guruvayur at 2.15 am the following day (Kollam-7.05 pm, Kottayam-9.09 pm, Ernakulam Town-10.24 pm, Thrissur-12.44am). On the return trip the train will leave Guruvayur at 6 am to reach Punalur at 2.30 pm. (Thrissur-6.26 am, Ernakulam Town-7.54 am, Kottayam-9.29 am, Kollam-12.25pm).
The train will have 12 general second class coaches and two luggage-cum-brake-van coaches and stops at Aavaneeswaram, Kottarakara, Ezhukone, Kundara, Kollam, Munroethuruthu (halt), Sasthamkotta, Karunagappally, Oachira, Kayamkulam, Mavelikkara, Chengannur, Tiruvalla, Changanassery, Kottayam, Ettumannur, Vaikom Road, Piravam Road, Tripunithura, Ernakulam Town, Aluva, Angamali, Chalakudi, Irinjalakuda, Pudukkad, Thrissur and Poomkunnam.
The service is being operated in lieu of two passenger trains of the Guruvayur-Thrissur passenger and Kollam-Punalur passenger announced in the Railway Budget 2013-14.
MPs N Peethambara Kurup, K M Balagopal, MLAs P K Gurudasan and K Raju and Madurai Divisional Railway Manager A K Rastogi attended the flagging off ceremony.