TIRUCHY: The announcement of plans for additional train services along the Tiruvarur-Karaikkudi route by the Tiruchy divisional manager in January this year came as a relief for many a passenger, especially after their years-long demand for appointing gatekeepers at all the level crossings on the section was finally fulfilled by the succeeding month. While officials say the proposal for additional services has been submitted to the railway board, rail users express doubts over its implementation citing the lack of adequate gatekeepers to ensure round-the-clock service on the route.
Although plans for additional services like Tambaram-Sengottai tri-weekly Express, Ernakulam- Velankanni bi-weekly Express, and Tambaram-Karaikkudi daily Express were announced on the Tiruvarur-Karaikkudi route, the railway has been operating only one train (Train No 06197/06198 Tiruvarur - Karaikkudi DEMU Special) on it since 2019. While the delay in journey time by the system of using mobile gatekeepers or travelling gatekeepers on the route was addressed recently by deploying a gatekeeper to each of its unmanned level-crossing, rail users point to the need for more of them to operate additional services.
"Earlier, there were 72 level-crossings between Tiruvarur and Karaikkudi. But now, there are about 60 as the railway eliminated some of them by constructing subways. The railway has to appoint at least three gatekeepers at a level crossing to ensure round-the-clock train operations.
At present, there is only one gatekeeper at each level crossing on the route. Though the railway had twice advertised call for ex-servicemen for the gatekeeper’s post, they have not received much response. This is because the railway was appointing them on contractual basis for six months. People would apply for such vacancies only if the contract period is raised to at least one year. The railway has to extend the contract tenure of the gatekeepers and take steps to allot more trains on the route," said B Baskaran, the general secretary of Tiruvarur District Railway Users Committee.
V Viveganatham, secretary, Pattukottai Taluk Railway Passenger Association, said, “At present, they have gatekeepers only for one shift. Therefore, they are able to run the train only during daytime. In fact, instead of recruiting gatekeepers on contract basis the railway should conduct steps for permanent recruitment. Though they conducted such a recruitment test in 2019, they are yet to select candidates. We request the railway to avoid further delay on it.”
Meanwhile, Southern Railway officials said that they have sent the proposal for running more trains on the route to the railway board.
"For the current traffic, a gate on Tiruvarur-Karaikkudi route needs only one gatekeeper. We have already sent proposals for running more trains on the route and are waiting for their approval. The engagement of ex-servicemen for gatekeeper vacancies is a railway board policy and at present their contract period is only for six months. The board is already considering the issue of their tenure. Similarly, the recruitment of gatekeepers or Level-1 candidates (under notification no CEN RRC-01/2019) is under process and it got delayed due to some of the concerns expressed by the candidates," a senior official said.
The board had set up a committee to examine their concerns and submit a report. The report has been submitted and the board has taken the steps to implement the suggestions, the