CHENNAI: With the railways deciding not to release the annual timetable this year, too, the travel time of trains continue to remain high across several sections. This, despite over Rs 1,000 crore being spent on track doubling, track renewals, and several other infrastructure improvements in the State, which would allow train to speed up.
The cut in travel time, extension of trains, and upgrading of a few others are given effect in the timetable every year, the last of which was released in July 2019. A senior railway official said the timetable was not released as only special trains were being operated currently.
“If any changes are made in its operation from October 1, we will notify. There will be no significant change in the timings of special trains,” he said. In the last two years, track speed has been increased in Chennai-Madurai, Chennai-Gudur, Arakkonam-Renigunta, and Arakkonam-Jolarpettai sections.
The Chennai-Madurai route was fully converted into an electrified double line and thrown open for traffic in April 2018. After multiple inspections, in July last year, the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) granted permission to enhance speed of trains to 110 kmph from 100 kmph, for the entire 493 km stretch. The increase in speed is expected to cut the travel time by 15 to 20 minutes.
Presently, most trains take 7 hours and 50 minutes to 8 hours and 20 minutes to cover the distance. The trains were given excessive slack time in the 2019 timetable for safety reasons.
“Chennai-Madurai Pandiyan special has been reaching its destination 15 to 20 minutes before the scheduled time regularly. But, officially the travel time has not been reduced,” said S Krishnan, a rail enthusiast from Madurai. Even after approval from CRS, running the trains with higher travel time is unacceptable, he added.
Similarly, signalling system has been upgraded along 67 km track between Arakkonam and Renigunta, which would facilitate operation of trains at 130 kmph. However, travel time of Tirupati and Mumbai-bound trains have also not been reduced yet. Regular train services were last operated by the Southern Railway on March 22 last year.
Since then, passengers have been catered through reserved special trains. Unreserved passenger trains are yet to resume operations fully, except on Chennai suburban routes. Meanwhile, in October last year, the railway board had ordered Southern Railway to convert 36 passenger and MEMU services into ‘Express’ trains.
Most trains take 7 hours and 50 minutes to 8 hours and 20 minutes to cover the distance of Chennai-Madurai rout. The trains were given excessive slack time in the 2019 timetable for safety reasons