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COIMBATORE: With another festival season round the corner, the travel woes of commuters from Coimbatore to southern cities like Madurai, Tuticorin, Tirunelveli and Nagercoil have started increasing. As far as rail connectivity is concerned, tickets for the Coimbatore - Nagercoil Express are getting sold off within days of the reservation facility beginning. According to information available with the railway reservation wing, there is a huge rush for tickets and the situation will continue till November end. The situation will turn worse by Diwali and Ramzan. Same is the case of the Coimbatore - Tuticorin Link Express, which gets attached to the Nagercoil Express on a daily basis till Vanchimaniyachi Junction. Apart from a passenger train that starts at 7.15am, the Nagercoil Express and the six coaches of the link express are the only train services that link southern districts with Coimbatore.... Read more...
All the tickets for the reservation compartments get booked in advance, while the unreserved compartments get jam-packed with those who plan their trips all of a sudden. "There are indications from the railways that a festival special between Coimbatore and Rameswaram will be operated for six months from August first week. The train was operated during the festival season in previous years too, but it was not made a permanent facility despite strong public demand," says Jameel Ahmed, member of the divisional railway users consultative committee. If operated, the train is likely to bring about little relief to south-bound passengers. However, railways is yet to respond to the need for another Nagercoil Express, which may ease the demand for the existing train. Demands to increase the compartments of the existing train are also falling on deaf ears. There are about 50 government buses and 20 omni buses between Coimbatore and southern cities. Though the festival season is little away, they have already started running beyond their capacity. "There is no lean day in the case of southern routes. We are not able to issue tickets to all those who approach us on all the days of the week. The sector needs more buses and trains," feels R Bhaskaran, Coimbatore unit secretary of the Tamil Nadu Omni Bus Operators Association. As thousands of people from southern Tamil Nadu are working in textile and other industrial segments of Coimbatore, the city is badly in need of more trains and buses to Madurai, Nagercoil and other southern cities. "When the Coimbatore-Dindigul meter gauge line was active, there was an express train that went up to Rameswaram. This line was used not only by pilgrims but also commuters from Madurai region. Due to gauge conversion work in Dindigul-Coimbatore region, this service was stopped. We have been demanding its rerouting via Erode and Karur till completion of the gauge conversion, but in vain," says M Krishnan, former president of the Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Coimbatore chapter. Besides the Rameswaram Express, there were three passenger trains that operated between Madurai and Coimbatore through the Dindigul-Pollachi stretch. But the railways simply opted to cancel them instead of rerouting them via Erode-Karur stretch. Meanwhile, gauge conversion is still dragging feet because of the slow progress of land acquisition between Pollachi and Podanur. "Connectivity is the biggest problem faced by us now. Getting even a sleeper class ticket in trains remains a luxury. Most of the time, we are forced to take old public transport buses with very poor running speeds to Tirunelveli and Coimbatore," says V Prabhakar, an IT professional from Rajapalayam. Though very limited in number, private omni buses are offering relatively comfortable travel in the region. In the case of the state transport corporation, there is only one air-conditioned service and that too between Coimbatore and Tiruchendur. "It is a matter of shame that the state transport department is not running air-conditioned luxury buses between Coimbatore and Madurai. Government buses would be more affordable and safe compared to private omni buses. It is high time we get deluxe air-conditioned buses between the cotton city and southern Tamil Nadu," feels M Amudhan, employee of a private firm in the city and a native of Madurai. Whenever he wants to visit his native place, Amudhan takes the Jan Shatabdi train to Trichy and then takes a bus to Madurai. "Early completion of gauge conversion can solve the issue. Strong political will is necessary in that direction," says Jameel.