After a gap of nine years, the much-awaited Madurai-Bodinayakanur (Bodi) rail track laying work is gaining pace.
Earlier, the Madurai-Bodi line track designed during the British regime in 1917, was open to the only passenger train that plied until the end of 2010. The delay in allocation of funds is the cause for delay in taking up this gauge conversion project.
The detailed estimate for this project was prepared during 2006. Apart from track-laying work on 90 km, the project requires 192 bridges, including eight major bridges. But, only a part of the estimate for construction of eight major bridges was sanctioned in 2008. However, the complete estimate for the project was sanctioned in 2016. Now, the Rs 330-crore broad-gauge conversion project, covering a total of 90 km, is gaining momentum, sources said.
OP Raveendranath Kumar, Theni MP, when contacted, said he was among the people of Theni district, looking forward to completing the pending works at the earliest.
Taking pride, Raveendranath Kumar, son of Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, said, in his maiden speech during the Parliament session, he had raised his voice for the early completion of the Madurai-Bodi gauge conversion project to revive the rail travel.
During the MPs’ meet convened by the Southern Railway in Tiruchy last year, the demand to fast-track gauge conversion was placed to accord priority to this project. Similar demands were made on four occasions and ultimately it drove the positive change.
Keeping focus on the project, the MP said, the effort was put forth not for gaining political mileage, but to enjoy the facility as a common man. Thanking Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Railway Ministry, he said the conversion works had been progressing in a steady pace and added that during the next Parliament session, he would raise the demand for according priority to allocation of funds to complete the rest of the project, which could be over this year.
The revival of Madurai-Bodi train and vice versa would largely benefit passengers, especially farmers relying on cultivation of banana and grapes. Once the train is back on track, transportation cost of the farm produce would be lesser. Moreover, the revival of Madurai-Bodi line would also facilitate scores of students and research scholars bound for Madurai Kamaraj University. Further, the MP said, since tourism is an important part of economy in Theni district, it serves as a gateway to neighbouring Kerala, which was blessed abundantly with greenery and scenic locations in tourism hotspots.
Hence, the much-awaited rail service would play a phenomenal role in boosting tourism economy as well. The Theni MP also added that a botanical garden would be created in his constituency with the aid of staff from the Horticultural College and Research Institute, Periyakulam. The facility on a par with hill stations of Kodaikanal and Ooty is proposed to come up on a sprawling 25 acres. Plans were also afoot to set up boating facility as part of tourism promotion, he said.
According to VR Lenin, Divisional Railway Manager (DRM), Southern Railway, Madurai, the first phase of the gauge conversion project on a stretch of 37 km from Madurai to Usilampatti was completed and recently KA Manoharan, Commissioner of Railway Safety, Southern Circle, Bengaluru, inspected the section by motor-trolley initially and also conducted speed trial between these two stations in the presence of AK Sinha, Chief Administrative Officer, Construction, Chennai Egmore and Venkatachalam, Chief Signal and Tele-communication Engineer.
During the trial run, it exceeded the average speed of 104 kmph and touched 110 kmph to the maximum. The gauge conversion project is going on a right track and expected to be completed by April 2020, the DRM told DT Next on Sunday.
Recalling the past, M Piramanayagam, former Member of Divisional Rail Users Consultative Committee, Southern Railway, Madurai, said the last run of the Madurai-Bodi passenger train was on December 31, 2010. He said Thoothukudi-Coimbatore day train, which was made operational 25 years ago on metre-gauge, should resume, like how it was done between Madurai-Bodi sections.
- Madurai-Bodi line is the only rail connectivity between Madurai and Theni districts
- Passenger train plied on the track, designed during the British regime in 1917, until the end of 2010
- The gauge conversion project is estimated to cost Rs 330 crore
- The gauge conversion, covering 90 km with 192 bridges, will be completed in April 2020
- The revival of the line will help farmers, students and research scholars and boost tourism