Ever since two Vande Bharat trains began operating between Thiruvananthapuram and Kasaragod, the schedules of the usual trains have gone haywire. There are widespread complaints about trains being detained on the way in order to allow Vande Bharat trains to pass through without any hindrance. The woes of the passengers are compounded by problems such as snags that develop in the signals and landslides that obstruct railway tracks.
Since the 69-km-long Alappuzha route is a single track, the most number of trains are detained in this sector. When the Vande Bharat train from Kasaragod passes through the area, trains such as the Jan Shatabdi Express, Ernad Express, Alappuzha-Ernakulam Special, and Ernakulam-Kayamkulam Special which are headed in the Thiruvananthapuram direction, are detained. Vande Bharat reaches Alappuzha delayed by 15 minutes most of the time.
The Ernakulam-Kayamkulam Special that operates in the evening reaches Alappuzha late every day as it is detained for 20 minutes at Kumbalam to allow the Vande Bharat to pass through and at Thuravur for another 20 minutes to free up the route for the Alappuzha-Ernakulam Special. Although the problem could be resolved to some extent if the train schedules are rearranged, it is not being done.
The Alappuzha-Kannur Executive No 16307 which was rescheduled for Vande Bharat, is delayed by hours on most days and reaches Kozhikode after 11 in the night. The Lokmanya Tilak-Thiruvananthapuram Netravati is detained at Kanhangad and the Mangaluru-Nagercoil Parasuram Express at Kozhikode to allow through the Vande Bharat train that operates through Alappuzha. The Vande Bharat through Kottayam mainly affects the schedule of the Tirunelveli-Palakkad Palaruvi Express. Palaruvi is detained for up to 20 minutes in each direction.
In addition to Palaruvi, the Ernad Express is detained at Chalakudy and the Kannur-Coimbatore, Coimbatore-Mangaluru trains at the Shoranur outer signal. The Kannur-Shoranur MEMU is detained at Edakode, the Kannur-Ernakulam Intercity Express at Parappanangadi and the Nilambur-Kottayam Express at Pudukkad by 15 to 20 minutes to allow the passing of the Vande Bharat train operating via Kottayam on its return journey. The situation of the weekly trains is no different.
Automatic signalling needed
In order to find a permanent solution to the problems being faced by the passengers at present, automatic signalling facilities should be established on the Thiruvananthapuram-Mangaluru route on an emergency basis and the track should be doubled on the Ernakulam-Ambalapuzha sector.
The main problem being faced in South Kerala is the rush that is experienced in Palaruvi and Venad Express trains. A sufficient number of coaches are not available in Palaruvi in order to cater to the number of passengers. The problem is that trains with only up to 14 coaches can be operated on the Punalur-Shenkottai route which is a ghat section. The permission to increase the number of coaches is getting delayed.
Venad faces problems on the return journey too
Even though the rush of passengers could be eased to an extent by operating MEMU trains in the morning and evening from Kayamkulam to Ernakulam in the intervening period of the schedules of Palaravu and Venad, no steps have been taken in this direction. The main measures needed to streamline the operation of trains in Kerala are to resume the 06495 Thrissur-Kozhikode Express in the Malabar area, restore the old schedule of the Alappuzha-Kannur Executive, resume 06496 Shoranur-Kozhikode Passenger, and reschedule the 06455 Shoranur-Kozhikode Express.