CHENNAI: Senior officials of Southern Railway have high hopes on the railway budget to be presented on Thursday, which, they believe, is likely to have generous allocations for Tamil Nadu and the South zone.
“In the last one year, there has been a lot of political noise from all parties regarding railway projects, which is unusual. Since May 2014, when the new regime took over, Chennai has hosted the railway minister thrice. As BJP might want to strengthen itself in Tamil Nadu, the State might get generous allocation in this budget,” a senior railway official told Express on condition of anonymity.
Officials said the focus would be on completion of projects already announced.
“However, some new trains and projects will be announced due to political considerations,” another official said. A thrust on improvement on passenger amenities on terminal stations like Chennai Central, better safety measures, quality of food and punctuality of trains were necessary, officials added.
Allocation for doubling and electrification works on the Chennai-Madurai-Kanyakumari route should be accorded highest priority, they maintained.
“Trains from Chennai to Madurai and other southern districts are extremely popular. However, new trains can’t be announced as operational load on the single line is already very high. If this is implemented, at least four hours can be saved,” an official said.
Double lines exist only till Chengalpattu, while work on the rest of the route takes place in patches. The Madurai-Kanyakumari doubling has only reached the feasibility study level, the report of which was submitted to the ministry.
“In Tamil Nadu, the rail lines have not been augmented as fast as the roads. A case in point is the Chennai-Tiruchirapalli section. These works should be taken up aggressively,” said M S Jayanth, former General Manager of Southern Railway.
Another project that needs budgetary attention is a third terminal station in Chennai, which could be Royapuram or Tambaram.
Regular commuters also hoped for the revival of Chennai-Sriperumbudur line via Avadi and announcement of another daily train from Chennai to Mumbai and Jodhpur/Ahmedabad in the budget.
In July 2014, the then Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda had announced four new trains connecting Tamil Nadu with other states. Trains connecting Chennai with Ahmedabad, Visakhapatnam and Shalimar and one connecting Madurai and Jaipur were announced.
Also on wishlist
Online booking of unreserved tickets to cut long queues
Budget hotels inside Chennai Central, similar to those in Delhi
Leasing out vacant Railway land to private agencies for revenue generation
ICF Wants Rs 700 cr for LHB Coaches
The Integral Coach Factory has requested the Railway Ministry for funds to produce 300 more high-speed stainless steel Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches annually at its factory in Perambur. Currently, ICF produces around 300 such coaches, a capacity they want to double. The new facility would require an investment of Rs 700 crore, sources in the ICF told Express. ICF already has the required land and funds would be needed for machinery, construction and manpower. The stainless steel coaches are used in Shatabdi and Rajdhani trains. An LHB coach has more seats than a normal ICF coach, while its lighter weight also enables trains to move at higher speeds.
Earmark more for tn projects: PMK
PMK founder S Ramadoss on Tuesday demanded that the Centre allocate a major portion of the Rs 9,215 crore required for the 19 railway projects in Tamil Nadu, besides expediting them.Stating that most of the schemes had been pending due to lack of fund allocation by the Railway Ministry, he said the Railway Budget this year should fulfill the demands of Tamil Nadu. Last year’s railway budget was disappointing since only five new projects were announced for the State. On the general budget, he said the ceiling for exemption from Income Tax should be raised to Rs 5 lakh and tax deductions on savings and healthcare increased. He said the allocation for social welfare sectors like education and health was low.