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East coast link takes shape as gauge conversion gathers pace

WITH gauge conversion work along the central districts connecting the south on in full swing, the East Coast Line of the rail-ways is gradually taking shape. All the gauge conversion work along the central districts of Thiruvarur and Nagapattinam are in various stages of completion. Some major work from Karaikkudi till Kanyakumari remains to be implemented along with a portion of Mahabalipuram to Varakalpattu in Cuddalore district. Completion o the project would connect Chennai till Kanniyakumari, a point emphasised by the Railway Minister recently. Three gauge conversion works spanning 198 km with the entire length of construction of over 700 km are being carried out. Ac-cording to railway authorities, "The estimate of construction costs along the East Coast Line till Pondicherry was estimated at Rs 1200 crore when first proposed nine years ago. However, gauge conversion works taken up along Peralam-Karaikal-Nagapattinam-Thirutharaipoondi-Karaikudi are all proceeding according to schedule, which will aid the connection of the East Coast Corridor." Funds released for gauge con-version by the railways for the current year have witnessed a huge rise, which was accessed through the performance budget 17-18 and the Pink Book released by the railways. A senior railway official said, "For the 72-km stretch along Pattukottai- Karaikudi, the first phase of 32 km already has entered the final stages with work almost completed.

The second phase would be soon taken up after signalling and other work is completed. The project has a sanctioned budget of Rs 240 crore for the current year, whereas in the previous year, it was only Rs 80 crore." For the Pattukottai to Thirutharaipoondi stretch, almost all bridge construction is over with a !D' class station construction underway at Muthupettai, all expected to completed by March next year, said the official. As most of the lines along the route were in metre gauge, they are now being converted to broad gauge ones, said Mannai Manoharan, general secretary, Dakshin Railways Employees Union. "The entire project is witnessing significant movement with a gradual rise in funds for construction activity to take place", he said. "The 33-km stretch between Nagapattinam-Thirutharaipoon-di new line where land acquisition remained a key problem has finally begun with a Rs 331 crore sanctioned for the work. A total of 172 small bridges and 11 large ones cross the new line. New lines from Thirukkuvallai-Nagapattinam and Thirukuvallai- Thiruthraipoondi are all b-ing commissioned for a total sum of Rs 25 crore,", said officials. As no railway lines were available from Nagapattinam to any of the southern districts, the commissioning of the railway line along the eastern sector would be a great boon for passengers, according to Manoharan.

Money matters

Though the eastern coast corridor of Southern Railway is moving at a brisk pace providing connections from Chennal at various stages, the biggest hitch lies after Karaikkudi for a stretch of 462 km till Kanniyakumari through Ramanathapuram and other villages for which a survey was taken in 2009. It hangs in the balance with a total projection of Rs 1965.76 crore required for the entire project.
Points Heading 
■ Patukottai- Karaikkudi (73 km), earlier an MG Line, is closed for traffic due to gauge conversion work
■ Mannargudi- Pattukottai (41 km) new lines are being laid with tenders already awarded
■ Nagapattinam-Thirukuvall-Thiruthutharalpoondi New line has already been commissioned with land acquisition complete 95 per cent complete
■ The proposed line will be from C hen nai-Perungudi to Cuddalore via Mahabalipuram for a total stretch of 179 km 

1 comment

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