Pleasant journeys are turning into bitter experiences with trains being delayed towards the fag end, writes B. MADHU GOPAL
PHOTOS: K.R. DEEPAK
LOST IN THE MAZE? The new platform under construction; (below) An aerial view of the single line leading to Visakhapatnam Railway Station and the front elevation of the Gnanapuram entrance.
"We had a pleasant journey till now. Our travails have just begun, hope we reach our destination at least in an hour." This is the common refrain of passengers and commuters travelling by trains to the metro from Hyderabad and Vijayawada, after crossing Anakapalle Station.
Even prestigious trains like Godavari and Ratnachal are often delayed and sometimes take more than an hour to cover the 40 km. distance between Anakapalle and Visakhapatnam. The trains are often held up at Gopalapatnam and Kancharapalem due to non-availability of platforms to accommodate the incoming trains.
Visakhapatnam, a major Railway Junction and terminal Station, situated mid-way between Chennai and Howrah, has been at the receiving end for several decades when it came to provision of better amenities to passengers. The Godavari Express, Ratnachal, Janmabhoomi and Tirumala are among the most sought after trains by people coming to the city from Hyderabad, Vijayawada and Tirupathi respectively.
These trains are being frequently delayed after Anakapalle for the past several years. The Route Relay Interlocking (RRI) system is said to be one of the major causes for these trains being held up after Duvvada Station. The movement of trains is under the control of South Central Railway till Duvvada (excluding Duvvada Railway Station). The jurisdiction of East Coast Railway begins from Duvvada Station.
There is only one RRI Cabin at Simhachalam Station which controls trains coming from both Anakapalle route (SCR) and Kothavalasa route (E. Co. R)
While E. Co. R trains are given through passage at Simhachalam RRI Cabin, those coming from Anakapalle route are being held up due to technical problems. Railway sources say that setting up of a second RRI Cabin at Duvvada Station can solve the problem to a great extent.
This apart, Visakhapatnam is a terminal station like Howrah and Chennai without terminal facilities. A major bottleneck in the movement of trains in and out of Visakhapatnam Railway Station is the single line through which all trains have to pass to reach the few platforms in the station. In Howrah and Chennai there are multiple lines which lead the trains to different platforms.
As if this is not enough, the powers that be in Orissa are extending one important train after another to Bhubaneswar. The same zeal is not being shown to extend the express trains terminating at Bhubaneswar to Visakhapatnam. People of the city feel that merging Waltair Division in South Central Railway or creation of a separate zone with Visakhapatnam as headquarters would solve the problem.
Another major problem for Visakhapatnam Junction is that it's a terminal station and all trains coming from Chennai and Hyderabad and proceeding towards Howrah and in the return direction have to invariably stop for a minimum of 20 minutes as the locomotives have to be detached and again attached at the other end.
The shifting of the coaching complex from the Railway Station and construction of an additional platform (no. 6) on the Gnanapuram side are expected to ease the congestion very soon. Both projects are in an advanced stage of completion. There are also plans to construct two additional platforms.
The Gnanapuram entry, opened a few years ago, is yet to gain the patronage of passengers. The absence of platforms on this side and important trains starting mostly from platform 1 and 2 and non-availability of reservation facility till recently had acted as a deterrent to many passengers from entering the station from this side.
This entry is convenient for passengers coming from Gajuwaka, Simhachalam, Pendurthy and Kancharapalem. At present autorickshaws are being allowed right up to the main entrance.
The general booking and reservation counters are comparatively free. Passengers can avail reservation facility from anywhere to anywhere by any train. A VIP Lounge has also been opened recently.
"The Gnanapuram entry would also be popularised with the improvement of amenities. The old railway quarters on the Gnanapuram side would be demolished and there are plans to make a provision for entry of cars directly onto the platform like in Howrah Station. There are also plans to construct a budget hotel," said an official who preferred to remain anonymous.
The Railway authorities are said to be toying with the idea of diverting some of the trains from Duvvada Station. There is every need to develop a satellite station to reduce the load on the main station. With the population of the metro growing by leaps and bounds and the corporation graduating into Greater Visakha Municipal Corporation, none can dispute the fact that Duvvada Station has to be developed on those lines.
But what are the plans to shuttle the passengers from Duvvada to the city?
Introduction of local trains and MMTS seems to be the only way out. Are the authorities listening?
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