Rail commuters in several parts of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and certain areas of Karnataka might have to shell out a few extra bucks for travelling around 200 km. The cheap passenger ticket might not be available in the future as the Railway Board has instructed all zones to convert passenger trains, EMUs, and MEMUs operated beyond 200 km to express train services.
As per the order, Tirunelveli-Mayiladuthurai, Mangalore-Calicut, Tiruchy-Rameswaram, Villupuram-Tirupathi, Coimbatore- Kannur, Puducherry-Tirupathi, Guruvayur-Punalur, Trichy-Palakkad, Mangalore–Madgaon, Villupuram-Madurai, Erode-Mayiladuthurai, Tirunelveli-Erode, Coimbatore-Mangalore, Madurai-Kollam, Palakkad-Tiruchendur and Coimbatore–Nagercoil trains have been recommended for conversion by the board.
The list includes trains travelling a minimum of 209.03 km (Tiruchendur-Cannanore) to a maximum of 532.42 km (Coimbatore-Nagercoil) with average speeds ranging between 29.14 km to 43.57 km per hour. Any train clocking 55 kmph would qualify for a superfast express train as per the parameters fixed by the railway ministry. Curiously, travellers would be easily paying not less than double the existing fare if they travel by the same trains after they are upgraded to express train category.
DREU president R Elangovan said; “Elimination of passenger trains is a part of Centre’s privatisation plan. A total of 508 trains (30 trains in Tamil Nadu) have been identified all over India for increasing speed. It is one of the conditions imposed by the World Bank — abolishing money-losing passenger trains. COVID-19 has provided them with an opportunity to do away with passenger trains.”
“Around 13,000 passenger trains were running all over India. They have stopped it altogether. Now, some 200 select trains are being run. They want to run only on profit routes,” Elangovan added.
When asked, B Guganesan, chief PRO, Southern Railway said, “It (speeding up trains) is an ongoing process. No decision has been taken yet.”