Pathanamthitta: The opening of the second track on the Kottayam road would also pave the way for the launch of new rail services across Kerala. The railways had so far cited the Chingavanam-Ettumanoor single track as the main impediment to smooth operation and the introduction of new trains.
The first preference will be for the Kottayam route if new trains are allocated to Kerala.
Rajdhani via Kottayam road?
There has been a long standing demand for a Rajdhani Express train via the Kottayam route. The Thiruvananthapuram-Nizamuddin Rajdhani Express operates services via the Alappuzha-Konkan route three times in a week.
Kerala MPs are to demand a Rajdhani Express train via Kottayam on the three days it does not operate services via Alappuzha. The new Rajdhani is expected to be operated along the Chennai-Vijayawada-Nagpur route.
A trial of the Thiruvananthapuram-Kannur Shatabdi Express along the Kottayam route was carried out in 2017. It was assessed that this service would be possible after the doubling of the track at Kottayam.
The old Kottayam trains?
Along with the laying of new tracks, other platforms have been constructed at Kottayam Station, allowing services to originate and terminate from here. The station also has facilities for refilling water and cleaning coaches.
Direct trains can be operated between Bengaluru or Hyderabad and Kottayam. During Sabarimala season, special train services might be operated to Kottayam except Kollam.
Trains Velankanni, Karaikal
The Ernakulam-Velankanni weekly special train (via Kottayam, Kollam) will be launched in June. Railways may consider making this a daily service after considering patronage.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ernakulam-Karaikal Express had performed services as a passenger train from Ernakulam to Kottayam in the morning. With the new double line and upgraded station, authorities may consider moving the departure and arrival station of the Karaikal Express from Ernakulam to Kottayam.
Services from Bangalore, Mumbai
Another long-standing request is to have trains to Bangalore and Mumbai from Kottayam. Mumbai LTT-Ernakulam Duronto Express services can be extended to Kottayam. This can be made possible if the refueling of the generator car is done at Mangaluru instead of Ernakulam.
The weekly Kochuveli-Yog Nagari Rishikesh and Thiruvananthapuram-Chennai trains were diverted via the Alappuzha route two years ago due to dual tracks. These are expected to either operate services through Kottayam or introduce new trains.
The services of the weekly Madgaon-Ernakulam train and the Pune-Ernakulam train can be extended to Kottayam.
Better maintenance facilities are needed
However, if more trains are to be allocated to Kerala, there should be improved facilities at Thiruvananthapuram to carry out the train repair works. Thiruvananthapuram railway station lacks a sufficient number of platforms and the two projects envisaged to solve the problem are progressing at a snail’s pace.
Construction of additional platforms at Kochuveli station has been delayed due to lack of funds. Additionally, approval has not yet been given for the Nemom terminal project estimate. Although the foundation stone for the terminal was laid in March 2019, the Board of Railways took no further action even after three years.