Monday, December 28, 2009

Chennai Mayavaram Railway line delayed further

Resumption of services unlikely before Summer 2010

I had written, in February this year (, about the delay in work. 10months on, there still isn’t a confirmation on the date for the resumption of services on the Chennai- Villupuram- Mayavaram railway route.

Typically laying down of the 100+kms track including the most difficult of bridges should not take over a year. This stretch between Villupuram and Mayavaram has taken over 3 years with the Kollidam Bridge cited as the hurdle.

Sources say that even given this difficult conditions, if the railways had the will, this could have been completed a lot earlier (even a couple of years ago). Sources say that Political forces combined with Private Bus operators have ensured a ‘Go Slow’ on the works in this route.

Unlikely next month

The latest update is that there is likely to be a further delay. While earlier reports indicated the possibility of the line being thrown open by Pongal/end January, sources indicate that given the current stage of completion, a resumption of services in January 2010 was unlikely.

The laying of the tracks had been completed a few months back leaving only the signal and platform work to be completed. But there seems to be not much progress on this front. And the security inspection of the tracks has also not yet been completed.

Auto Drivers upset

Several auto drivers I spoke to along the Mayavaram-Chidabaram route are upset at this undue delay. They have now waited for 3 years in the hope that the old services on the Chennai Egmore- Mayavaram line will resume. However, thus far, it has been a futile wait.

Not just auto drivers, business in the stalls too has seen a dramatic fall in the Mayavaram station with only a few trains being operated from this station in the last few years.

Recently, the Tiruchirapalli DRM seemed to be hastening this process and there were media reports of the section being ready for passenger traffic by mid January. And things at last seemed to be going in the right direction and speed. Sources said, no sooner had this announcement come, vested interests ensured that he would not be there to quicken this process and was transferred and that has once again put the whole process on the back burner.

Sirkazhi Station

The signalling at Sirkazhi seems to have been complete but the platform and reconstruction of the building is still some way off (as can be seen from the photograph).

However, as compared to the Mayavaram-Villupuram stretch, the Mayavaram-Thiruvarur stretch is seeing faster completion.

Exorbitant fares
Travellers on this route have been put to great hardship in the last few years. Private
buses charge exorbitant fares, especially during festival times (A non AC seater by bus from Chennai- Mayavaram could be anywhere in the Rs.250-400 range, depending on the type of bus, while a travel by II Sleeper would cost well under Rs.200/-).

Closure of bridge on Chennai Kumbakonam road

Also, the Anaikarai bridge on Chennai-Kumbakonam road route is under reconstruction. Hence, all road travellers(including all buses) from Kumbakonam have had to take the round about Mayavaram-Sirkazhi- Chidambaram- Sethia Thope route leading to delay in travel by at least 1 ½ to 2 hours. And this bridge is unlikely to see completion anytime in the near future.
(Kumbakonam Sethia Thope is 65kms via Anaikarai while Kumbakonam-Mayavaram-Chidambaram-Sethia Thope is about 105kms with the Kumbakonam-Chidambaram stretch going through small roads, with lot of curves)

Given the current speed at which work is being undertaken and the inclination(or the lack of it) to complete, it seems unlikely that we would see the resumption in Chennai Egmore- Mayavaram train services before the beginning of Summer2010, i.e we may be at least a quarter away, unless there is a dramatic turnaround in the next fortnight to a month. And that is unreasonable delay by any standards.

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