GAUGE CONVERSION PROJECTS OF TAMIL NADU
The following is the list of gauge conversion projects pending in TamilNadu:
Let us travel from North to South:
1) Tambaram – Villupuram (150 kms)
This stretch is now being converted in patches – Melmaruvathur to Mundiampakkam, Pakkam to Tindivanam, etc. This Gauge Conversion will help to double the stretch between Chennai Egmore and Villupuram.
This will help to speed up most of the day trains like Vaigai, Pallavan, Cholan, Guruvayoor, Kanyakumari-Howrah , Sethu, Nagercoil-Mumbai and Chendur Expresses.
2) Thiruvarur – Karaikudi (150 kms)
This stretch will cover Thiruthuraipoondi, Pattukkottai, Muthupettai, Adhirampattinam, Arantangi and Karaikudi spanning Thanjavur, Thiruvarur, Nagappattinam,Pudukottai and Sivagangai districts.
Mr.Karunanidhi – UPA influencer and former CM hails from Thiruvarur and Mr.P.Chidambaram – UPA Home Minister hails from Karaikudi. Its an irony that this line has been taken up as a last project by Railways.
Completion may drag on due to loose soil condition, insufficient fund allocation and passive politicians.
3) Thiruthuraipoondi – Agasthiampalli - Kodiakkarai (50 kms)
Now a train bus is operated in this route. Southern railways tried to pull down this route to facilitate private bus operators, but Indian Army stepped in to save this important link to aid logistics.
4)Thiruchi – Thanjavur (50 kms)
The erstwhile metre gauge line is lying idle. If converted to BG, this route will have a double track and passenger trains can be operated frequently between the two towns. But will the private bus lobby allow this to happen?
5)Manamadurai – Virudhunagar (80 kms):
This project is dragging for more than 3 years. Aruppukkottai town is out of railway map for many years. If converted, this will serve as an alternate route to the heavily congested Tiruchi-Madurai – Virudhunagar route.
Goods and few express trains can be diverted via Tiruchy-Karaikudi-Manamadurai – Virudhunagar.
6)Madurai – Bodi (90 kms)
This picturesque line was having only a pair of passenger trains – that too on weekdays. Non-availability of rolling stock of metre gauge parts forced railways to close this line. While dismantling of lines is done at break-neck speed, the actual conversion – that is laying of new lines will take many years.
7) Madurai – Coimbatore: (200 kms)
This crucial link between two major towns is lying idle for the past 5 years. Gauge conversion between Madurai and Dindugal will result in doubling of the congested line, and help in faster transhipment. The new line between Dindugal – Palani-Pollachi-Coimbatore will help in introduction of new express trains between these emerging cities of south and west TamilNadu.
Kara Kara Vandi Kamatchi vandi........Kilakke poegudhu Pollachi Vandi – danced Radhika in Kilakke poegum rail movie in 1978. Goddess Kamatchi alone can say when this train will be re-introduced.
8) Palakkad – Pollachi: (50 kms)
This line is left unattended because, the line originates in Kerala, but travels mainly inside Tamil Nadu. The Ottapallam – Palakkad – Trichur line inside Kerala is a double line and is well connected to rest of India. Only the TamilNadu portion is left unattended for the past 5 years (and maybe another 5 years).
9)Thirunelveli – Thenkasi (60 kms):
This line passing through Ambasamudram, is lying idle for around 5 years and no progress is made in conversion. If converted express trains can be operated between Tiruchendur-Tirunelveli-Kollam (Kerala).
10) Sengottai – Punalur (100 kms):
Now its time to salute the great Britsh Raj. This critical line which travels through huge gorges and hills of Western ghats travels through deep pits, tunnels and high rise bridges in the Ariyankavu Pass. Indian railways is struggling to complete this line citing rough terrain.....they even proposed to bypass the hills and circumvent it and travel 60 kms extra.
Now, we understand the skills and sincerity of the British Raj. Pamban Bridge, Kollidam Bridge, Nilgiris Mountain Railway, Ariyankavu Pass Railways are all due to hard work of the Britsh Raj. While the Kollam-Punalur line was completed in a year as it runs on a plain terrain , the difficult and tiresome Punalur-Sengottai stretch is awaiting further technical clearance. Let us wait and watch. Does anyone remember Bhagavathipuram Railway Gate movie of 1980s? This station is located on this beautiful yet neglected stretch.
11) Mettupalayam – Udhagamandalam (70 kms):
HA...HA..HA. At last, we got "Heritage Status" for this narrow gauge line. Otherwise, we CANNOT convert it into broad gauge. This is a rack & pinion arrangement track and a unique way of pushing the engine rather than pulling it.
This engineering marvel can never be equalled by our mediocre railways' team. So let's try to use steam engines imported from Europe, try to maintain them and continue to run the toy trains. The Indian Railways have done a marvellous add-on to this engineering wonder -THEY HAVE WRITTEN THE TRAIN NAME "NILAGIRI PASSENGER" IN HINDI. What a wonderful technological addition by the Indian Railways!!!!
Of the 2800 kms railway lines in TN, 980 kms that is 1/3 rd of the lines are metre gauge or pending gauge conversion. Other southern states like Karanatka, AP and Kerala have converted to Broad Gauge very long ago – thanks to initiatives by influential politicians like M/s.Narasimha Rao, Deva Gowde, Jaffer Sherif , K.R.Narayan and E.Ahmed.
But unfortunetely politicians from Tamil Nadu don't care much about our projects. Once they turn a minister they say "India is my priority" and lose sight of Tamil Nadu and even their own constituency. Look at the way Mr.T.R.Balu and Mr.S.S.Palanimanickam fight over projects for Thanjavur district – no, they fight among themselves and not for the district.
Such is the sad state of affairs. Our politicians have asked us to 'DREAM' but not to 'PERFORM'. That is the reason TN is lagging behind in rail connectivity and new projects.