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Rail line utilisation in Coimbatore needs rethink

V.S. Palaniappan

Podanur – Irugur – Podanur single railway line reaches ‘saturation' while Coimbatore – Coimbatore North – Irugur section is under utilised

Photo: S. Siva Saravanan

More facilities needed: Coimbatore Junction, with high revenue and passenger potential, still waits for more trains. —

COIMBATORE: Thirteen pairs of trains are skipping Coimbatore Junctions and are being run on the Podanur – Irugur – Podanur single railway line despite a high saturated capacity utilisation of 91 per cent, according to the Southern Railway.

Coimbatore Junction, with high revenue and passenger potential, still waits for more trains. The Coimbatore – Coimbatore North – Irugur railway double line has a capacity utilisation of only 84.8 per cent.

RTI Act

A reply from the Southern Railway to queries made under the Right to Information Act (RTI) in March 2011 says that the Podanur – Irugur – Podanur single railway line has 91.3 per cent capacity utilisation (more than 80 per cent utilisation of a single line is treated as ‘saturation point.'

In double lines, saturation comes only when the utilisation crosses the 90 per cent mark).

This it is a case of over utilisation of the Podanur-Irugur line and under utilisation of the Coimbatore-Irugur section.

Originally, the single line Coimbatore – Coimbatore North – Irugur had a pathway utilisation of close to 109 per cent.

Now post line doubling work, the utilisation has come down to 84.8 per cent. Railway sources in the traffic wing point out that the claim of the double line from Coimbatore to Irugur via Coimbatore North accounting for 84.8 per cent utilisation was puzzling and according to them, the utilisation levels should actually be around 55 to 62 per cent.

Agitation

General Secretary of Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam K. Ramakrishnan had last week led an all-party agitation to demand 13 pairs of trains (daily, bi-weekly, tri-weekly and weekly).

Another demand was that all new and special trains should run via Coimbatore and the practice of skipping Coimbatore Junction should be stopped.

He charged that Southern Railway seemed to be keen to neglect Coimbatore, despite being the second largest revenue earner in Southern Railway.

The agitation came about after sources in the Southern Railway revealed that even in the new time table, to be released on July 1, has no mention of re-routing of trains via Coimbatore.

Mr.Ramakrishnan is also contemplating to move the High Court as well as Supreme Court seeking directions to the Railway Board for routing trains via Coimbatore.

Stoppage

According to Raveendran of Residents Awareness Association of Coimbatore, routing of trains via Coimbatore is possible because the Irugur – Podanur line length is 11 km and re-routing them via Coimbatore would require only trains running an additional 11 km (Irugur - Coimbatore North 14-odd km, Coimbatore North to Coimbatore Junction 2 km and Coimbatore to Podanur another 6 km).

The additional distance would only result in extra 20 minutes of running time, allowing five minutes for stoppage.

S. Vaidyanathakrishnan of Coimbatore Rail Users Association says that citing pathway congestion and additional time required for routing trains via Coimbatore are lame excuses for depriving passengers of additional train facilities.

Even the recently announced Ernakulam – Bangalore Express (weekly) scheduled to be launched in third week of July is likely to be run via Podanur depriving Coimbatore of another train. Already the Kannur – Yashwantpur daily train is skipping Coimbatore Junction, says K. Kathirmathiyon – Secretary of Coimbatore Consumer Cause. While nearly three trains to Bangalore are skipping Coimbatore Junction, Coimbatore is dependent on the only train i.e., Island Express from Kanyakumari to Bangalore that runs via Coimbatore with a very little quota of seats. There is no overnight train from Coimbatore to Bangalore and people have to depend on Omni buses, he adds.

Regular services

Pointing out to the announcement on introduction of Coimbatore – Tuticorin and Coimbatore – Mettupalayam regular services, Mr.Kathirmathiyon wants to know when the Jodhpur – Bangalore Express will be extended to Coimbatore.

Announced in two railway budgets, it still remains on paper, he laments.

Two decades

Quoting a reply obtained under RTI, rail activist Ravi says that the Coimbatore – Irugur second line became a reality at a cost of Rs.60 crore after two decades.

Coimbatore – Coimbatore North second line for 2 km became operational in February 2004, Coimbatore – Podanur 6 km second line became operational in April 2010 while the Coimbatore North- Irugur second line became operational in August 2010.

Now, the battle has begun for utilising these second lines by getting the trains re-routed via Coimbatore.

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