[UPDATE (January 30, 2019 11:00): Following a second review, the authorities have decided to provide a halt at Ambattur only for the Sapthagiri Express pair effective 30 January, 2019. This will mean shifting the Express towards Chennai to the slow line in a comparatively lean late evening hour. ]
Some were skeptical, some were aghast, some were plain surprised. Such was the nature of the decision of Southern Railway to provide an experimental halt at Ambattur for two trains – the Jolarpettai Yelagiri Express and the Tirupathi Sapthagiri Express.
In a world where every two-bit station demands a halt, this reaction was rather surprising. The demand actually came from a politician, unsurprisingly. What was surprising though, is that SR authorities deemed it fit to forward the request to the Railway Board, knowing the constraints very well. What is more surprising, is the Railway Board taking a positive decision, as some SR sources suspect, without knowing the ground reality at Ambattur or without asking for more details.
Ambattur is a suburban station that has three platforms – one on the slow line for trains bound towards Arakkonam, one on the slow line for trains bound towards Chennai, the third on the fast line for trains bound towards Arakkonam. Besides this, there are three other lines without a platform. The plan was to stop these trains on third platform when they moved out, and on platform two when they came in.
Well, what is wrong with this? A lot, actually. None of the platforms can hold more than 17 coaches. With many coaches out of platform, the halt was waiting to be a safety disaster. Passengers would have found it extremely difficult to board the train into coaches that are out of platform. Either a double halt would have to be provided, or an extended halt was required to help all passengers board safely.
Funnier was the arrangement for the trains towards Chennai – there is no PF on the fast line in this direction. The plan was to more these trains in the already dense slow line from Avadi, one block before Ambattur. And, let these two trains crawl behind all other EMUs stopping all stations. This would have caused a lot of outrage for both the express train commuters and the EMUs behind the express.
Sources say that this could have been easily dealt with by moving the halt to Avadi, where a few long-distance trains already halt on the full-length platform. But for some reason, SR chose to push the proposal through, only to call it off, literally at the last moment. This halt cancellation will provide a lot of relief to station staff, Railway Police, and even passengers who were caught unawares with this announcement. Has the final word been said on this and the lid closed on the halt? PS: With bureaucrats around, one never knows when the final word has been said. At the time of going to the press, sources say that SR is adamant that the halt will happen no matter what, effective 30 January 2019. Watch this space for more on this saga.
Pic Courtesy: VidTeq