Chinks in coastal railway unity seen

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MP Nalin Kumar Kateel’s suggestions to SWR on operational issues irks people from Udupi and Uttara Kannada

A suggestion by Dakshina Kannada MP and State BJP president Nalin Kumar Kateel, purportedly at the behest of a few, to detain the Karwar-Bengaluru overnight express for a few minutes to facilitate the smooth running of the Bengaluru-Mangaluru Central overnight express appears to have ruffled coastal unity on railway issues.

Mr. Kateel in his January 30 letter to South Western Railway’s General Manager A.K. Singh welcomed SWR’s proposal to run Train Nos. 16511/12 Bengaluru-Mangaluru-Kannur overnight express via Kunigal on all seven days instead of four days. However, the train takes over 10.30 hours in both the directions as it gets detained at Sakleshpur-Subrahmanya Ghat to facilitate unhindered crossing of Karwar services.

The MP suggested that SWR detain Karwar-Bengaluru Express at the Ghat to allow the crossing of Bengaluru-Mangaluru Express while detaining Mangaluru-Bengaluru Express at the Ghat for crossing of the Bengaluru-Karwar Express. The letter was written ostensibly at the behest of some officebearers of the Pashchima Karavali Rail Yatri Abhivriddhi Samiti, that has been fighting for coastal Karnataka Railway causes for long.

Signal upgrade

Activist Kundapura Gautam Shetty said both Karwar and Mangaluru trains operated smoothly in March last before getting cancelled during the lockdown. Problems arose after signal upgradation in the Ghat section, which actually should have augmented train operations. SWR and Southern Railway could address the issue if demanded aggressively.

On Saturday, Udupi-Chikkamagaluru MP Shobha Karandlaje wrote to SWR demanding speeding up of Karwar-Bengaluru express by curtailing its slack running time between Sakleshpur and Bengaluru. Thanking SWR for introducing the speedy service skirting Mangaluru, she said Karwar-Bengaluru Express could reach the capital by around 7 a.m. instead of the present 8 a.m. The train’s timetable and its route via Padil were the reasons for its success.

Uttara Kannada Railway Seva Samiti Secretary Rajeev Gaonkar said activists in Udupi and Uttara Kannada were ready to sit with those in Mangaluru to find a solution for the delay of Mangaluru train. However, a few Mangaluru activists used every channel to prove Karwar train ‘illegal,’ to get it extended to Goa, to alter its timetable and get Mr. Kateel’s letter written.

“Rail users can agitate for speedy service; but we cannot dictate terms on train operation, like train detention, which is the exclusive domain of the Railways,” Mr. Gaonkar said.

West Coast Samiti president G. Hanumanth Kamath was in agreement with this view; but could neither justify nor disagree with the acts of fellow activists.

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