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People angry over move to close Shimoga-Talguppa railway line

Special Correspondent

Meeting resolves to fight for retention of the track and press for its conversion

SHIMOGA: Even as efforts are on to press for an early completion of gauge conversion between Shimoga and Talaguppa with people of Sagar resorting to an agitation, the reported decision of the Railways to close down this section permanently has angered them.

The meeting convened in Sagar town on Friday by the Broadgauge Railway Action Committee to discuss the situation arising out of the reported move of the Railways decided to launch a sustained agitation for retaining the line.

The meeting took exception to the shifting of the 16 gatemen posted at railway crossings between Shimoga and Talaguppa by the Railways and described it as a precursor to the closure of the line. They questioned the wisdom of the Railways to close down the line.

People's movement

The meeting decided to organise a people's movement in Sagar town shortly for retaining the line and also to press for it being converted into a broadgauge line.

It also decided to involve the heads of religious institutions in the Malnad region in the movement apart from leaders and representatives of various parties.

The meeting wondered how the Railways could decide to wind up the line when tenders for works widening the track and strengthening of bridges and culverts had been called for. It urged the Railways not to do anything to disband the track.

Those who addressed the meeting included the president of the Action Committee, Na'D'Souza, the chairman, U.G. Mallikarjun, the general secretary, William, and the members, B.R. Bheemachar, C. Gopala Krishna Rao Ganapathi Sulagodu and Mahabaleshwar.

The metregauge line between Shimoga and Talaguppa has a long and chequered history. The line was introduced in 1939 for transporting wood from the Malnad area to the Mysore Iron and Steel Works of Bhadravati (now Visvesvaraya Iron and Steel Ltd.) to run its furnaces.

Ten years ago, the regular passenger train running between Shimoga and Talaguppa was stopped when the broadgauge on the Shimoga-Birur Section was extended up to Shimoga city. In its place, a rail bus was introduced.

However, the sudden transfer of the 16 gatemen working at level crossings has created such a situation that mobile gatemen travelling in the rail bus have to get off it to close the gates at level crossings till the rail bus passes them.

This process takes at least 10 minutes at every gate. As a result, the train, which used to take three hours to reach its destination, now requires four-and-half hours.

On account of this, passengers planning to catch the Shimoga-Bangalore night train cannot do so. It has also hit collections at the Sagar counter.

The gauge conversion assumes importance in view of the fact that it paves the way for providing a link to Konkan Railway which means direct train connection to Mumbai, Goa and Kerala.

When it was brought to the notice of the Shimoga MP and former Chief Minister, S. Bangarappa, he told presspersons that he would get the proposal re-examined after holding a detailed discussion with the Railway Minister Lalu Prasad.

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