The DMK along with its major alliance partner Congress during its 9 year tenure (2004 – 2013) failed in showing any kind of interest in completing railway projects related to Tamil Nadu. This brought a complete halt to Tamil Nadu’s dream railway projects such as Chennai – Madurai double line project, Pothanur – Pollachi Broad-gauge project & the Mountain rail project between Senkottai and Punalur passing through five caves. Furthermore, the electric train project between Arakkonam and Thakkolam was hardly progressing under the UPA Government, which created disgust among the common people. In comparison, we shall see the way in which BJP Government under the leadership of Narendra Modi had successfully managed to accelerate the works of these projects.
Chennai – Madurai double line project
This understandably was the dream project for the people of South Tamil Nadu, as the project was designed to have double lines in the railway route between Chennai and Madurai passing through Tiruchirapalli. During 2008, the planning commission under the leadership of Montek Singh Ahluwalia rejected the Villupuram – Trichy – Dindigul double line for various reasons, but fortunately it was approved thanks to the persistent efforts of then Minister of State for Railways belonging to the PMK, R.Velu.
The work commenced with the laying of the 100 KM long Chengalpattu – Villupuram unit, followed by the 172 KM long Villupuram – Tiruchirapalli unit and 100 KM long Tiruchirapalli -Dindigul unit.
To begin with, the 100 KM long Chengalpattu – Villupuram track was the easiest unit to work on, however the earlier meter gauge required be changed into broad gauge and to make things worse there was rise in price of the construction materials which resulted in may contractors leaving midway, all these factors delayed the work considerably. The project, which was expected to have been finished by 2012 only saw minute progress even till the end of May 2014 along the areas of Madhuraanthakam, Thozhupedu, Villupuram, Perani, Chengalpattu, Karunkuzhi.
When we consider the Villupuram – Tiruchirapalli unit, the project should have been completed much earlier as the area was vastly plain there was no necessity to construct any bridges and in spite of this, the lethargic approach displayed by the DMK – Congress UPA Government resulted in the slugguish progression of the project. The work was completed only in the Ariyalur – Valadi area & subsequently the works in the Ariyalur – Virudaachalam and Virudaachalam – Thiruvennainallur area were halted without reason.
Similar to the Villupuram – Tiruchirapalli unit, the 151 KM long area between Thiruvennainallur – Valadi which belongs to the Villupuram – Tiruchirapalli 172 KM long line, had no requirement for construction of bridges over any river but even so, the project barely progressed and was not completed within the 5 year deadline of the DMK – Congress government. It was only after the Modi government came to power, that the works of this project including the bridge construction over Cauvery, Kollidam and Thenpennai rivers were fast-tracked and the works in Villipuram – Tiruchirapalli unit came to see the light of day.
It is also to be noted that land acquisition activities were pending in many places near Ayyalur in Tiruchirapalli – Dindigul unit, the UPA Government remained indifferent to this issue and refused to solve this problem by approaching the state government. This is because DMK concentrated only in the ministries that they received in the Congress Government and they didn’t care about the other issues. DMK and Congress didn’t show any interest towards this project delayed it intentionally, the reason being it was started by the efforts of people from other parties like PMK. When the progress was delayed by quoting land acquisition as reason, it was the BJP Government which after coming to the power held discussions with Tamil Nadu state government and con land acquisition works were completed successfully.
Works successfully and rapidly completed by the Modi government are listed in the table below:
Chengalpattu – Karunkuzhi
Karunkuzhi – Mathuraanthakam
Thindivanam – Tholupedu
Thindivanam – Perani
Villupuram – Thiruvennainallur
Thiruvennainallur – Virudhachalam
Virudhachalam – Maathur
Maathur – Ariyalur
Valadi – Ponmalai
17 (Two bridges over Cauvery and Kollidam)
Trichy – Manapaarai
Manapaarai – Kalpadichattiram
Kalpadichattiram – Thaamaraipatti
Thaamaraipatti – Dindigul
Pothanur – Pollachi – Dindigul – Paalakaadu
The Pothanur – Pollachi – Dindigul Vidyalayam project, which connects Tamilnadu’s southern districts with Coimbatore was an eagerly anticipated project by the people of Southern Tamil Nadu, Western Tamil Nadu and the Kerala people living in Tamil Nadu border. The first step of this project was over by constructing a broad gauge service between Dindigul and Palani. The UPA Government halted meter gauge usage completely in 2008 and yet even after 6 years till 2014 they failed to replace it with a broad gauge line, thus resulting in the stagnation of the project.
When it came to the completion of the 57 KM long Pollachi – Paalakaadu unit, 40 KM long Pollachi – Pothanur unit, 62 KM long Pollachi – Palani unit, there was only significant progress in the unit between Pollachi and Palani and progress of other lines came to a standstill. It was finally the Modi government which immediately after coming to power, accelerated the work and opened it for transportation by November 2014.
In the broad gauge route between Paalakaadu and Pollachi, various issues including level grassing was solved and the route was open for usage by 2015. What’s more, to construct a broad gauge in Pothanur – Pollachi unit and to reduce the curves in the route, Modi government solved the land acquisition problems and constructed the 40 KM route, which helped Pollachi to regain its junction status it 2017, which was earlier lost by the station in 2007.
Senkottai – Punalur
It was quite unfortunate when the functioning of meter gauge was stopped during 2010 in the 49 KM along Senkottai – Punalur railway line which passes through five caves, additionally the works to upgrade it to broad gauge was not started and this badly affected both the goods rail transportation and the passenger rail transportation in this area. No significant work happened until 2013 in this area.
What is more disgraceful is how the UPA government halted works by quoting the age-old agreements regarding deforestation between British government and the Thiruvadhaangur princely state. The project which was started in 2014 with the initially allocated funds of 35 crores, was inflated to a budget of 350 crores. The works in this difficult path comprised of five caves, and required 13 bridges and S-bends to be constructed, finally, after much delay the path was successfully opened in 2018 for transportation after 8 years. It was the Modi government which eliminated the legal problems in finishing the project and also equipped the path with new technologies.
Electrification of Thakkolam – Arakkonam route
Although this is small project in just 7 KM, it was extremely delayed because of clash between two departments of Central Government which delayed it for almost to 20 years. How many of you know this story? As always, the project was solved only after it was taken up by the Modi government.
For the trains travelling from the southern districts and delta districts of Tamil Nadu to northern India, broad gauge was constructed between Chengalpattu and Arakkonam to avoid travelling into Chennai city but there was a problem in electrification of this line.
As this railway line was near to the INS Rajali’s runway, the Defence Ministry therefore didn’t permit the electrification of the railway line. Hence, it was planned to setup this project in a different path for which the defense department agreed it would pay the railway department for construction. However, the railways department didn’t start the construction as the amount was not transferred from the Defence department. The trains travelling through Villupuram to reach Arakkonam needed to replace their electric engines with diesel engines to reach Arakkonam and then again replace their diesel engines with electric engines to travel further. In hindsight to keep the process simple and to ease the travel time of passengers, railways could have invested in creating an alternate path but this didn’t happen due to red tape.
During 2016 February, due to the efforts of our former Defence minister Manohar Parikkar and former Railway minister Suresh Prabhu, Defence Ministry transferred 31 Crores to railways and completed this project in record time, finally successfully launching it in January 2019.
Mayiladudhurai to Karaikudi line was accelerated
The 188 KM Mayiladhudhurai to Karaikudi meter gauge line that was present before was one of the most important routes for the districts in delta regions and even after meter gauge trains were stopped in many regions, good transportation was conducted by southern railways in this meter gauge line. This line was used to transport rice purchased in the undivided Thanjavur district to Karaikudi rice mills and was also used by Chennai – Karaikudi – Kamban express during the meter gauge era.
After the broad-gauge work in the Trichy – Karaikudi route was over, Railways decided to make this route as broad gauge during 2008. Although this route connects the districts of Tirutharaipoondi, Patukottai, Peravurani to Chennai, this broad-gauge project progressed in tortoise pace under DMK – Congress Government. What’s more surprising was how even though the route crossed through Karunanithi’s native Thiruvarur District and P.Chidambaram’s native Sivagangai district the work progress was at its best snaillike.
When the Modi government took over, only 38 KM work was completed in this route due to lack of funds. It was finally the Modi Government which allocated the necessary funds for this project. This assured the completion of 72 KM Karaikudi – Pattukottai route by 2017 in addition to this the 28 KM long Thirivarur – Thirutharainppondi line is also in the verge of completion and thus work in 100 KM in the 150 KM unit was over. The remaining 50 KM long Thirutharaipoondi – Pattukottai route is expected to be over by March.
Chennai – Mumbai double line route
The most important railway project for Tamil Nadu is taking place outside the state and this is the 1000 KM of 1300 KM Chennai – Mumbai railway line which is just single tracked, the line is from Renigunda to Pune and will witness a travel time of 24 hours to cover 1300 KM. Among the inter-city routes between, Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, the single track is present only between Chennai to Mumbai, which is the last leg of golden quadrilateral.
This route, which saw zero progress from 1980s was announced to be made as double line by then Railway Minister Nitish Kumar in the Vajpayee Government in 2003 but this project was halted when Congress came to power in the center. The late Chief Minister of United Andhra Pradesh Rajasekara Reddy completed the double line between his home district Kadapa and Chennai but the same commitment was not displayed by then Maharashtra Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde to double-line his home district of Solapur with Mumbai.
Hard working Modi Government
None of Tamilnadu MPs have taken care about this as the major work for this project is outside Tamil Nadu. Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra MPs displayed zero concern towards this project as the route goes to Chennai. Only Modi government is putting a lot of work to complete this last leg of the golden quadrilateral project.
Former Railway Minister Mr. Suresh Prabhu and current Railway Minister Mr.Piyush Goyal deserve huge credit for fast-tracking these projects without being from Tamil Nadu and without even insistence from the MPs & Leaders of Tamil Nadu. The myth that the Modi Government has done nothing to Tamil Nadu by DMK Leaders like MK Stalin is nothing but a joke.
The article is translated from Kathir News written by Mosquito Mani.