HUBBALLI: It has always been more than just a train for the people of North Karnataka and especially for those from Hubballi and Dharwad.
The Rani Chennamma Express, quite simply the most popular train of South Western Railway (SWR), has completed 25 years of service.
After the broad-gauge conversion of the tracks, the Rani Chennamma Express was introduced on August 15, 1995 between Bengaluru and Mijaj in Maharashtra. In 2002, it was further extended up to Kolhapur and till now the service has been continuing.
For the last 25 years, it has remained one of the important trains of the SWR, connecting the north and south Karnataka regions.
Before the arrival of the broad gauge, the train was called the Karnataka Express, Deccan Express and Kittur Express and was running between Pune and Bengaluru.
In 1986, the Tumkur MP GS Basavaraju raised a demand in Parliament for the train to be renamed as the Kittur Rani Chennamma Express. His demand was finally accepted by the railway ministry after the broad-gauge conversion in 1995.
Because of its timings, the train has become popular among those from Hubballi-Dharwad who wish to travel to Bengaluru.
The train leaves Hubballi around 10.30 pm and reaches Bengaluru the next day at 6.30 am.
The train in the other direction leaves Bengaluru around 9 pm and reaches Hubballi the next morning around 5.45 am.
The timings of the train are highly convenient for people in the twin cities.
Most political leaders used to take this train to reach various parts of north Karnataka. Former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda was a regular passenger. Many ministers, MPs, MLAs, businessmen from Belagavi, Hubballi-Dharwad, Haveri, Davangere also used to take this train to reach Bengaluru.
Recalling his association with the train, the large- and medium-scale industries minister Jagadish Shettar said it has remained popular among all sections of society including VIPs.
"It is very convenient to reach the capital from the north and central parts of the state. I have requested Union Minister of State for Railways Suresh Angadi to reduce the travel timings of the train and to upgrade it with more safety measures," he said.