CHENNAI: With the Madurai-Theni-Bodinayakanur gauge conversion works entering its final stage, the Southern Railway has proposed to extend the Chennai Central-Madurai AC Superfast Express up to Bodinayakanur. So, if all goes as planned, people of Theni district would get their first direct train to Chennai before May next year.
Two trains — AC tri-weekly express from Chennai Central to Bodinayakanur and a daily passenger train between Madurai and Bodinayakanur — were proposed to be introduced in the new Broad Gauge (BG) line by the Southern Railway, revealed an official document, a copy of which is available with TNIE.
The Madurai – Bodi line came into existence as a narrow gauge in 1928 and it was converted into a meter gauge in 1953-54. After being in operation for more than 50 years, the MG line was dismantled for conversion into BG line on December 31, 2010. Since the commissioning of the line, no direct passenger train was operated to Chennai from Theni.
The gauge-conversion work was initially planned to be completed within 18 months, but remained idle for seven years due to a fund crunch. As a result, the estimated cost of the project rose from Rs 180 crore to Rs 272 crore between 2010 and 2015.
The single 58 km BG line between Madurai and Andipatti was completed last year and recently cleared for operation. After completion of the 17 km conversion work between Andipatti and Theni, two trials with high speed engines were conducted by the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS). The last leg of the 15 km line between Theni and Bodi is expected to get completed before April next year.
A senior railway official said trains will be introduced upon the railway board’s approval. “However, no deadline was fixed due to Covid-19 restrictions,” the official added. SP Jayaprakasam, former president of TN Food Grainers Merchants Association, said, “After the MG line was converted between Dindigul and Palani, the Railways introduced a new daily express train between Chennai and Palani. Likewise, we wanted a new train for Theni district.”