Kochi: The Railway Board is apparently giving short shrift to the requirements of Kerala. The figures for the one year preceding the COVID-19 outbreak early last year, which necessitated the ban on all forms of transport nationwide, attest to this neglect. While 99 new trains were announced in the country from January 2019 to March 2020, Kerala got just two trains!
The Chennai-Kollam Express and the Kochuveli-Nilambur Rajya Rani Express were the only two trains that were allotted during this period.
Kerala got just three trains when 266 new trains were introduced in the country in 2018.
As no regular train services were conducted from March 23, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Indian Railways claims that the data till January 2021 are not available. But even during this period when special services were run, Kerala did not get adequate consideration.
Though the Southern Railways had recommended trains such as Ernakulam-Velankanni bi-weekly, Mangaluru-Rameshwaram, and Ernakulam-Salem Intercity, these proposals didn't get nod. The Board is yet to give its final approval for extending the Guruvayur-Punalur Express to Madurai and Thiruvananthapuram-Madurai Amrita Express to Rameshwaram.
The journey of Silchar-Thiruvananthapuram Express was curtailed at Coimbatore on the basis of the assurance that the Dibrugarh-Kanyakumari Vivek Express will be operated daily. But the Vivek Express is yet to operate daily services. The recommendations to operate Kochuveli-Banaswadi Humsafar and Kochuveli–Mangaluru Junction Antyodaya Express thrice in a week were also rejected.
Among the south Indian states, the BJP-ruled Karnataka has been allotted more trains: seven. The data indicates that the talks held by the parliamentarians at the Southern Railway headquarters have not been fruitful.
Railway zones cannot operate train services without directives from the Railway Board which is the apex body of the Indian Railways.
The Railways has been claiming for long that new trains are not being allotted for Kerala due to the lack of sufficient terminals. However, measures to address this have not been forthcoming. Even announced projects are likely to prove elusive unless the state government and the MPs jointly pressurise the Centre.