Bus tragedy: clamour for more trains to Bengaluru gets louder

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The KSRTC bus accident on Thursday that claimed 20 lives, the latest in the spree of fatal accidents involving State-run and private luxury buses on the Coimbatore-Bengaluru highway, has led to the clamour for more trains to Bengaluru getting louder.

In the past decade, allegation was rife that the Railways were playing into the hands of luxury bus fleet owners, who operated over 1,000 daily lucrative services from cities in Kerala to Bengaluru and back. Commuters ended up paying much more than train fare for private buses while being forced to commute in rashly-driven vehicles.

The impending completion of a pit line at the Ernakulam Junction railway station and the expected completion of a seven-platform railway terminal at Byappanahalli in Bengaluru have raised hopes of introduction of a daily premium train service from either Thiruvananthapuram or Ernakulam to the Garden City.

Official sources said the availability of a metro rail station at Byappanahalli would enable rail commuters to reach Bengaluru city with ease. Faced with much flak for inadequate services from Kerala cities to Bengaluru despite a whopping demand, the Railways have in principle assured that a new daily train terminating at Byappanahalli would be introduced in early 2020, they added.

Simultaneously, commuters are hopeful that at least one more rake will be allotted to the bi-weekly Kochuveli-Banaswadi Humsafar Express and the tri-weekly Kochuveli-Yeshwantpur Garib Rath Express, so that they increase their operating frequency from Kerala.

“The two existing daily trains — Kanyakumari-Bengaluru Island Express and Kochuveli-Bengaluru Mysore Express — are fully booked within a day of reservation commencing four months ahead. The situation is such that I had to make a reservation in October for a trip slated for February,” said Venkitesh P.G., secretary, Kerala-Bengaluru Train Users’ Forum.

Apart from railway, the only other cost-effective alternative is to travel by the limited number of buses operated by Kerala and Karnataka State Road Transport Corporations. Private inter-State buses which operate in the sector charge anything from ₹1,400 to over ₹3,000, depending on the season. Commuters who opt for buses also have to put up with delays on narrow, busy and ill-maintained national highway corridors, mainly in Kerala, he said.

Even Garib Rath and Humsafar Express trains do not optimally operate during the Friday-Sunday weekend, to the detriment of commuters. Commuters prefer Humsafar Express to Garib Rath since the former has less number of stops and is thus faster. The November-January Sabarimala season makes obtaining tickets for trains in the corridor further cumbersome for families and IT professionals since they are packed with pilgrims from Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, sources confided.

“Little has happened despite memoranda having been submitted to the Southern Railway. It must introduce daily special trains, at least during the Sabarimala season since it coincides with Christmas-New Year holidays as well. It did not operate special trains for Deepavali, resulting in many private bus operators fleecing commuters,” Mr. Venkitesh said.

Nithin Nobert, the Ernakulam area manager of the Southern Railway, said the terminal capacity at Ernakulam Junction would improve in early 2020 since work to complete the pit line by then had resumed after a lull. It will lead to the introduction of new trains from Kerala.

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