Even though the Union Railway Ministry under the UPA government had made several promises for Kerala during the last ten years of their rule, the Railways have gone back on a majority of such assurances.
As the interim railway budget 2014-2015 is set to be presented on Wednesday by Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge, there is a general consensus that Kerala’s needs may meet with a similar feet this year too.
Dreams like the Palakkad rail coach factory announced in 2008-2009 and the Cherthala wagon factory, which received a thrust in the 2011-2012 budget, are yet to take off.
The surveys on most of the proposed lines, which found a mention on these budgets, are yet to begin or attain completion. While, the Podanur-Palghat 3rd line survey proposed in 2011-2012 is yet to be taken up, several others like the Thalassery-Mysore railway line, the surveys of the Chengaur-Trivandrum via Adoor-Kottarakkar and Panathur-Kaaniyur which have been completed are yet to receive the approval from the railway board.
The proposal for the formation of a Peninsular Railway Zone comprising Thiruvananthapuram, Palakkad and Konkan Railway Divisions have been ignored for a long time.
The line doubling works along the Ernakulam-Alappuzha stretch via Kayamkulam and the Thiruvananthapuram-Chenganur stretch are yet to be completed owing to the heavy paucity of funds. With every passing year, the estimated cost of the project is set to increase. The promises to develop railway stations like the Ernakulam Junction Station and the Thiruvananthapuram Central station into world class hubs remain as lip service because of lack of proper budgetary allocations. Kerala is yet to receive three out of the total 8 trains (Five Express and three MEMU services) which were announced in the previous budget. According to Thomas Simon, General Secretary of the Western India Passengers Association, the people’s representatives continue to fail in prioritising the demands of the passengers of Kerala.
“What Kerala requires is more number of trains, coaches and better amenities. Even though the Railways have announced the development of Kottayam and Nemom as railway terminuses, no steps have been taken so far. Before any budget, it is the responsibility of the concerned MPs to understand the genuine needs of a specific area and press these demands. This is where we lag behind. This year, no concerted effort was made by any people’s representative in this regard,” he said. He added that the Railways should introduce more number of trains linking Mumbai, Nasik, Jamnagar with Kerala since the passenger patronage to these areas is very high. Officials with the Thiruvananthapuram division said that based on Kerala’s present needs, it is mandatory that doubling and electrification work receives more stress in the railway budgets.
“Currently, Kerala does not have sufficient capacity to operate new trains since a majority of routes have only single line. Electrification is incomplete. If sufficient funds are allocated to electrify the Shoranur-Mangalore section along with the doubling works in Central part of Kerala, the patronage of trains in the state will increase and we will be able to cater more to the public,” an official said.
They also stressed the need to augment the number of coaches on existing trains rather than introducing new trains altogether. Works like development of railway stations, construction of footbridges should be undertaken in a time bound manner. Railway Ernakulam Area Manager P L Ashok Kumar said that there are hopes that the Old Railway station may receive a mention in this year’s budget.