The railways decision to stop handling goods traffic at Puducherry Railway Station by converting the goods railway line into a passenger line and a platform has drawn flak from the consumer affairs and the port. Many felt that the sudden plan to convert the goods line into a passenger line would hit the flow of goods.
However, the stoppage of the goods handling would have a direct impact on the transportation cost of foodgrains meant for Public Distribution System (PDS). The goods handling line has been used for transportation of foodgrains by the Food Corporation of India (FCI).
When the railway officials visited the Puducherry Railway Station, Department of Civil Supplies(which provides food security to the people of UT) had opposed the closure.
The Port Department also feels that the line should be retained as once the port starts handling cargo, the movement of the cargo could be carried through railways.
The Port Department had already spent `90 lakh in gauge conversion of the line linking railway station to the old port. Moreover, the railways have been approached to connect the line to the new port and have submitted a draft plan in this regard, said an official. The official added that once the mouth of the harbour is desilted, the movement of cargo will commence.
The railway officials justified the closure and contended that the goods train laden with foodgrains arrives at the station only once in a month and instead the line can be converted into a passenger facility to cater to the needs of new trains that were sanctioned in the railway budget. As an alternative, the railways has provided the facility at Chinnababusamudram Railway Station which is 16 km from Puducherry.
“The railway officials told us that the foodgrains transported can be stored in the FCI godown at Thiruvandarkoil. But, this will cause difficulty in logistics as well as in maintaining the quality of the foodgrains, director of Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs, Mohammad Mansoor, told Express.
“Thiruvandarkoil godown is an open storage unlike the Puducherry godown. The distribution would also be difficult as it has to be transported in trucks to the Central warehouse godown at the Puducherry port,” said Mansoor.
“We are planning to approach Chief Minister N Rangasamy against the railway’s move. Chief Minister will write to the Minister for Railways to drop the plan,” he added.
Meanwhile, a representative of the railway board suggested that the small VIP platform can be converted into a regular platform instead of converting the goods line. Currently, no VIPs are using the railways to travel to Puducherry as they prefer road or helicopter. Moreover, there is potential to increase the length of VIP platform, he added.
He pointed out that if they convert the goods line to a passenger line by adding a platform, there won’t be any space for spur lines (dead end lines) for parking of trains and pit facility for maintenance of trains, sanctioned in the railway budget for five consecutive years.
“We hope the new chief secretary will give due consideration to the issue before accepting the closure of the facility,” he added.