Nixing Ernakulam Jn from Venad Express halt list sees other trains get ‘punctual’

Move that came into effect on May 1 has elicited mixed responses from passengers
Even though those travelling to places beyond Ernakulam welcome the decision, regular commuters who work in the government and private sectors, have raised objections.
Even though those travelling to places beyond Ernakulam welcome the decision, regular commuters who work in the government and private sectors, have raised objections. Photo | Express

KOCHI: May 1, 2024, proved to be an emotional day for scores of passengers who had been travelling to Ernakulam Junction railway station onboard 16302 Thiruvananthapuram - Shornur Venad Express. That was the first day in a long time when Venad Express didn’t come chugging into the station. Nor did the platforms see a flurry of hasty steps of office-goers rushing towards the exit to catch the autorickshaw in a last-minute dash to reach their places of employment before the punching deadline. Even as those, for whom Ernakulam Junction railway station has been the main thoroughfare for years felt sad and angry, others who travelled beyond were a happy lot.

The removal of Ernakulam Junction station from the list of halts of Thiruvananthapuram-Shornur Venad Express from May 1 – although a temporary move, according to officials – has elicited a mixed response from passengers. Even though those travelling to places beyond Ernakulam welcome the decision, regular commuters who work in the government and private sectors, Kochi corporation, etc., have raised objections.

The move comes after demand was raised by various passenger associations in the state. Speaking about the amount of time that could be saved if Venad skips Ernakulam Junction, Paul Manvettom, president of the All Kerala Railway Users Association (AKRUA), said, “This has been a long-standing demand of passengers. A delay of 30 or more minutes every day is not desirable in this day and age when time is precious. Passenger associations, including mine, had petitioned the railway board and ministry with the demand.”

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the train made the right time at Ernakulam Town enabling all the other trains coming right after it keep their dates with the corresponding stations. “For the first time in years, I was able to reach Ernakulam Town railway station at 10:40 am,” says Tibin Kuriakose who commutes in Nagercoil-Mangaluru Parasuram Express. Before the halt was removed, those travelling in Parasuram Express had to suffer long halts at Tripunithura followed by another 10 to 15-minute stop at the outer of Ernakulam Town station, he adds. “But since yesterday, it was bliss. No halt overs and no delay,” says Tibin.

“A lot of the issues faced by Ernakulam Junction station can be resolved once this happens. However, we have demanded that to ease office rush and cater to the needs of people who disembark at Ernakulam Junction, a MEMU service from Kayamkulam or Kollam via Kottayam be run at around 7:55am,” said Paul. It is a time slot that falls between Palaruvi and Venad Express trains.

Echoing the view, Sreekumar V, a passenger who depends on Venad to get to Thrissur, said, “Why waste 30 or more minutes? Just because this train gets held up, all other services that follow also get affected. It has a domino effect. I once happened to travel by Parasuram Express. The train was stopped at a place which resembled a no man’s land. After more than 15 minutes here, the long-distance train was held over again, this time in the outer area of Ernakulam Town station, all for Venad Express.”

However, Liyons J, secretary of Friends on Rails, said, “To take away the Ernakulam Junction halt of Venad Express, citing the arrival of Kochi Metro service to Tripunithura, is not justified. Metro is no substitute. We have expressed our strong protest on this matter.”

Those who oppose the move say Venad is an office-timing train from Thiruvananthapuram to Ernakulam Junction. “If the junction is skipped without providing an alternative, it would become a problem for hundreds of commuters,” said Sindhu R, a state government employee whose office in located near Maharaja’s College.

They also point to severe traffic congestion on the Kottayam to Ernakulam route. “If Ernakulam Junction is avoided, it will be a disservice to passengers. If Venad departs from Tripunithura at 9.20 am, it can reach Junction station at 9.40am. Anyway, Venad usually reaches the station before 10am. But if a person gets down at Tripunithura at 9.20am, it will take them at least 15 minutes to reach a metro station. The metro service runs at seven-minute intervals. From there it takes 20 minutes to reach the Junction. Taking into account the time taken to get out of the station, it is not so easy for a person alighting at Tripunithura to reach their offices on time. Also, a metro ticket between the two destinations costs Rs 30. The average person cannot afford this,” Liyons added.

The critical voices, however, said the new arrangement will work if a MEMU service from Tripunithura is started to coincide with the time Venad arrives there.

Not the first time

In 2019, railways planned to change the route of Venad Express, which would have seen it skip Ernakulam South station. It was then decided to nix the stop after the train switched to Linke Hoffman Busch (LHB) rakes. Unlike the old rakes, LHB coaches receive power from the engine. So electrical parts have to be disconnected before the engine is replaced. Then after reconnecting, the entire mechanism has to be inspected before the train can be allowed to proceed. This takes around 40 minutes. This is not the first time that Junction stop has been distanced from Venad. The train had run for around one-and-half years skipping the station, before it was reinstated following continuous representations by passengers and people’s representatives.

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