TIRUCHY: The Southern Railway announcement of a revised schedule from February 7 for the lone train service along the Tiruvarur-Karaikkudi route has come as a relief for passengers after 10 years, as the journey time is set to come down to under four hours following steps over filling gatekeeper vacancies.
As per the new schedule, the diesel–electric multiple unit (DEMU) train leaving Tiruvarur at 8.15 am would reach Karaikkudi by 11.45 am. This comes when the service since 2019 has been taking about six hours to cover the distance of 157 km.
The whole issue dates back to 2012 when the Railway suspended train services on the route for broad-gauge conversion works. With that it also relocated the 72 gatekeepers along the route to other level crossings. But when the line conversion works were completed the Railway struggled to fill the gatekeepers vacancies on the route. Thus, in 2019, it started running the DEMU service using mobile gatekeepers or travelling gatekeepers. But the system invited criticism from various quarters as the train journey time got stretched.
Though the clamour over the issue was suppressed by the Covid-19 pandemic, passenger associations and others continued their fight for resumption of normal services on the route. The situation changed this year when the Railway appointed 40 gatekeepers for one of the sections i.e., the Tiruvarur-Pattukottai section of the route in January. But this has not provided much relief as the train was taking more than four hours to cover the route due to the vacancies for gatekeepers in the remaining section (Pattukottai- Karaikkudi section).
With the Railway divulging plans to fill the remaining vacancies soon, passenger associations heave a sigh of relief. "At present, the Railway is running only one train in the route due to the gatekeeper vacancies. After their appointment, the Railway should allocate more trains, especially to Chennai through our route. The increasing train movement will be of great help to commuters," said V Viveganatham, the secretary of Pattukottai Taluk Railway Passenger Association.
"As the Railway would soon fill the gatekeeper vacancies, we also request it to consider allocating more trains, especially Express and freight services in our route," said B Baskaran, a member of Divisional Railway Users' Consultative Committee.
Sources said that the Railway is already planning to allocate more trains in the route now that the major issue of gatekeeper vacancies has been sorted out.