The much awaited Punalur-Sengottai rail route will be commissioned on Saturday. The first train along the route will start from Thambaram in Tamil Nadu to reach Kollam railway station on Saturday.
The official inauguration of the route will be held in April. “The first train will start by 5.30 pm on Friday from Thambaram to reach Sengottai by 6 am on Saturday. The train will further take the new route to reach Kollam by 10.30 am. The train will be given receptions at various stations including Sengottai on Saturday,” said N.K. Premachandran MP.
In the first phase, six passengers trains are likely to operate along the route bridging the two states, operating from Madurai, Sengottai, Kollam, And Tirunelveli. Express trains will have to wait for at least six months after the commissioning of the new rail route, considering safety issues.
The trains are expected to take more than two hours to cover 49 kilometres, the distance between Punalur and Sengottai, as the route is mostly in ghat areas.
The speed along the route has been limited to 30 kilometres per hour in the primary phase which will be advanced further.
The railways also has plans to consider the proposal to declare the rail route as a heritage tourism route, taking advantage of its course through Western Ghats along Aryankavu– Punalur stretch. The major considerations will be nature tourism and heritage tourism as the route already consists of historical structures constructed by the British. The rail route includes a heritage 13-arch bridge along the 45-kilometre-long railway line from Punalur to Sengottai, commissioned in 1903.
The bridge having 102.72 metres in length and 5.18 metres in height was constructed using the ancient Surki method by the British. It is now strengthened using concrete jacketing and the heritage look will be artificially created by fixing the walls with tiles resembling the old construction blocks. The meter-gauge rail service along the Punalur -Sengottai stretch was stopped since September 2010.
The Punalur-Sengottai section is part of the 325-km Kollam-Sengottai-Tenkasi-Tirunelveli- Thiruchendur gauge conversion project carried out by the construction wing of the Indian Railways. The rail route along Sengottai-Thiruchendur and Kollam-Punalur sections have already been opened for rail traffic.