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A proposal to convert the sprawling 110 acres owned by the Southern Railwayin the Kathrikadavu-Ponnurunni area into Kerala’s rail transit hub might remain a pipe dream, though it holds tremendous potential to speed up train movement in the State.
Earlier this year, Railway officials had submitted a preliminary report to the Thiruvananthapuram Division authorities on speeding up train movement by converting the under-utilised land located in the heart of Kochi into an integrated coach terminal (ICT) with up to 15 tracks.
The proposal was to construct the terminal with a station bigger than Ernakulam Junction.
At present, the Railway coach depot and marshalling yard occupy some space on the premises, while the rail line to Kottayam cuts through it.
Constructing an ICT here will decongest Ernakulam Junction and Town stations, while enabling faster movement of trains in the entire State. But even the basic paper work has not begun.
While admitting that there is no need for land acquisition, Divisional Railway Manager Prakash Bhutani cited fund paucity as the primary reason for not pursuing the initiative.
“A third pit line is being built for trains proceeding to Thrissur. Though they have been incurring delays, the ongoing track-doubling work through Kottayam and Alappuzha will speed up train movement to and from southern districts. The ICT can be realised once these options are exhausted,” he said.
“It gains relevance since the two main railway stations are located in the western part of Kochi, while the city and business activities are fast expanding eastward, beyond the NH Bypass. Connectivity will not be a problem since the 110-acre Railway land is located around 200 metres from the M.G. Road-Thammanam-Pullepady-NH Bypass Road which is all set to be widened to four lane. There is already a link road to the premises which will have to be widened,” said another key Railway official.
The ICT-cum-railway station proposal will become inevitable when track-doubling is over through Kottayam and Alappuzha, following which more trains can operate in the State. Already, trains are detained for long durations in the suburbs due to shortage of platforms and lines in Ernakulam, he added.
A senior Railway official confided that officials of the division did not seriously pursue the project with the Southern Railway head office in Chennai.
“The ICT holds tremendous potential to speed up train movement and also to garner commercial revenue. Only trains can ensure mass rapid movement of commuters in a sustainable manner in Kerala, since roads are choked and accident-prone. Kerala Rail Development Corporation Ltd, a joint venture company formed by the State government and the Ministry of Railways, must pursue the project,” he said.
Presently, most of the 10 tracks meant for goods trains are idling. This in itself calls for realignment of the existing infrastructure on the premises. Readying basic amenities for passengers and ensuring accessibility will also further the cause of integrating the rail network with the bus stand, upcoming Kochi metro station, and a ferry terminal in Vyttila Mobility Hub, Railway sources said.
This article first appeared on www.thehindu.com
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