Kottayam: Vanchinad Express, a popular train between Thiruvananthapuram and Ernakulam along the Kottayam route, is starting its service again after a long interval caused by the pandemic. The first service will be from Thiruvananthapuram on Monday, December 14, while trips from Ernakulam would resume from December 16.
Already, around 75 per cent of the regular services along Kottayam are running as special trains. After Vanchinad Express, more trains would start services in the coming days. They include Thiruvananthapuram - Madurai Amrita Express and Thiruvananthapuram - Mangaluru Express.
However, only passengers holding reservation tickets would be allowed to travel in these trains. As general tickets will not be sold, entry to railway stations would be restricted to people who have already booked tickets.
No benefit for regular commuters
Even though the Railway has resumed several train services, season tickets are yet to be restored. As a result, regular passengers travelling with these tickets are not benefited. Demands from these passengers to issue season as well as general tickets were rejected by the Railway Board citing COVID-19 protocols.
While restarting many earlier train services, the Railway has also withdrawn some important stops, including Changanassery. Three trains, Madurai - Thiruvananthapuram Amrita Express, Mangaluru -Thiruvananthapuram Express and Nilambur - Kochuveli Rajyarani Express, which earlier stopped at Changanassery would no longer halt there. According to Railway authorities, Changanassery stop was taken off based on a decision to avoid halts during certain specified hours at night. However, it is pointed out that Railway officials failed to consider the number of passengers at these stations. In fact, a large number of travellers from Pollachi and Nilambur used to alight from these trains at Changanassery during the early hours.
Another major stoppage cancelled is Kottayam of the Nilambur - Kochuveli Rajyarani Express. Local Member of Parliament Thomas Chazhikkadan wrote to the Railway Minister against this decision, but in vain.