CHENNAI: The Southern Railway has sought forest clearance to restore the erstwhile 17.20-km railway line connecting popular pilgrim centres of Rameswaram and Dhanushkodi. Though the foundation stone of this much-hyped project was laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 1, 2019, it has so far remained dormant, leading to cost escalation. While the original cost estimate was `208 crore, it burgeoned to Rs 747 crore now.
Dhanushkodi (Bow’s end) is a village at the southern tip of Rameswaram island. Once a flourishing tourist and pilgrimage centre, it was devastated by the cyclonic storm of 1964, which also destroyed the Rameswaram-Dhanushkodi rail link. The train, popularly known as ‘Boat mail’, was hit by a massive tidal wave and got submerged in the sea; none of the 115 passengers survived.
To tap the rail link’s tourism potential, the railway proposed to reconstruct the 17.20 km long electrified line. Officials said this will benefit thousands of tourists visiting the island. “Modern signalling equipment and electronic interlocking facilities; 31 minor bridges; and 10 road over bridges will be constructed along the Rameswaram-Dhanushkodi section,” officials said. There will be three halt railway stations as well along the section, officials added.
As per official documents available with TNIE, 28 hectares of Rameswaram reserve forest will be diverted for the project. R Subramanian, deputy chief engineer (construction), Arasaradi, Madurai, said in the application: “It (the project) follows erstwhile alignment that was in existence till 1964, and it is important from pilgrimage point of view to connect Kada Theertham temple, Kothandaramar kovil, Mukundarayanchatram, and Dhanushkodi.”
The official said the project will also help restore the ferry service between Dhanushkodi and Talaimannar in Sri Lanka.