Goods train yard to get shunted out !

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The state often finds itself at the losing end every time the railway budget is announced as it gets only peanuts in terms of new services or infrastructure development projects.

And now, as if to rub salt into its wounds, the railways is reportedly planning to shut down the state’s only goods train maintenance facility in Ernakulam and shift the regular inspection of popular long distance trains to other centres.

The move, which is supposedly aimed at cutting down on manpower, comes inexplicably at a time when new railway lines are being laid to run more goods trains to tap the potential revenue from the Vallarpadam Container Terminal.

Ernakulam region area manager George John reveals that tracks are being re-laid to tap the freight shipment from Mattanchery Warf and Cochin Warf.

“We target 50,000 tonnes of goods, mostly fertilizer and urea, in a year. We’ve almost completed construction of the new bridge at Venduruthy and have a proposal to double the number of services in the Mattanchery-Harbour segment,” he says.

But a circular Issued by the chief operating manager, Chennai on February 16 states that the activity at the marshalling yard is being cut down.

Accordingly, some of the technical staff is being deputed to the nearby tanker wagon repairing yard, besides shifting of machinery.

Ask public relations inspector, M Jayan, and he maintains there’s no move to close down the yard as of now, and only the staff is being reduced as a cost cutting exercise.

“The goods trains running in the sector are obtaining BPC (break power certificate) from Erode in Tamil Nadu. But, it’s true we’re trying to cut down the costs by resorting to staff cut”, Mr Jayan said.
However, informed sources believe that the shifting of BPC issuance to Erode is enough indication of the larger game plan.

“The move confirms that they want to close down the yard” sources added.

The maintenance facility now employs 120 personnel spread across traffic, commercial and mechanical wings.

A concerned divisional president of Southern Railway Mazdoor Union, P. Unnikrishnan warns that the railways’ move to shut down the maintenance yard would ultimately benefit Tamil Nadu.

“Additional work will mean capacity augmentation of the goods maintenance yard in Tamil Nadu,” he points out.

The railways’ excuse that revenue at the marshalling yard is sagging doesn’t ring true as the combined wagon clearance and demurrage charges for July, August and September stood at a whopping `1 crore, he says, also warning that the move could hit the smooth running of goods trains.

“Currently if the goods train breaks down specialists from the marshalling yard are called in to attend to the problem. But once it is closed the specialists will have to come from Erode and this will eventually affect traffic flow”, he says.

It was only recently that the railways had been criticised by state administrators for the increasing number of crimes on trains.

As a remedial measure, the government had offered to spare the services of the state police for patrolling trains, provided they were issued duty passes.

When there was no response, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy directed the police to buy tickets to board the trains, promising to reimburse them.

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