As rail traffic in both passenger and freight is gaining momentum after a two-year lull due to Covid-19, the Southern Railway (SR) is improving infrastructure on all fronts. Train speeds are being increased; electrification and doubling of tracks are being done on a war footing. And, leading from the front is its General Manager, BG Mallya. “We have tightened the system of monitoring the progress of infrastructure projects,” he told businessline. Excerpts from the interview:

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Passengers are travelling with a vengeance as pandemic eases. What does the data say?

Yes. The momentum is picking up fast in passenger travel. The SR registered 302 million originating passengers during H1 FY23 compared to 120 million in FY22. This is a 22 per cent growth when compared to the same period in FY20 (pre-pandemic period). However, in the unreserved and suburban segment, it is yet to reach the pre-pandemic mark.


How about freight traffic?

During the first half of the current fiscal, we loaded 19.13 million tonnes (mt) as against the target of 17 mt. Freight earnings of ₹1,766 crores in H1 exceeded the target by 17 per cent. We captured new commodities like gypsum, palm oil, laterite, industrial salt, and limestone. The Railway board has set a target of loading 35.7 mt of cargo and earnings of ₹3,173.50 crore for FY23. We will achieve our target.


What steps have been taken to improve freight terminals?

In the past two years, we have taken up track upgradation work like changing the rails, improving the rail fittings, and strengthening bridges. This has increased the average speed of goods trains from 28 kmph to around 50 kmph. We have improved our lines and infrastructure at the goodsheds.


How about port connectivity, which is a major focus area for the Railways?

Completion of the third and fourth lines between Chennai Beach and Attipattu has contributed immensely in faster transportation of freight trains from and to the ports of Chennai and Kamrajar. Similarly, connectivity to New Mangalore port has improved after doubling the line between Panambur and Mangalore junction. The ongoing Salem-Omalur will facilitate faster transportation of coal rakes from ports to powerhouses in the south.


How about doubling/tripling/multi tracking projects?

During FY22, SR has completed 57.73 km of doubling and muti-tracking projects, which include the Tambaram-Guduvancheri third line (11 Km); Padil-Kulashekara (2.26 km); Tattaparai-Milavattan (7.47 Km), and Tulukapatti – Kovilpatti – Kadambur (37 Km). . We completed 83.1 km of doubling projects in H1 FY23.


What’s the progress being made on electrification of lines?

SR has over 83 per cent of the network under electric traction with 598.18 route km brought under electric traction in FY22. To meet the Indian Railways goal of 100 per cent electrification by 2023, SR completed electrification of Pollachi- Podanur; Madurai-Manamadurai, and Ettumanur-Kottayam-Chingavanam. Further electrification of 85 track km has been completed under doubling/quadrupling. Recently, we electrified a total of 68.64 RKm sections in FY23 (Nagapattinam-Velankanni 10 Rkm and 58.26 Rkm of Dindigul-Palani). 


Can you give an update on the maximum permission speed (MPS) limit in the Chennai-Gudur section?

SR has increased the MPS to 130 kmph in Dr MGR Chennai Central – Gudur section. Due to this, the travel time between Chennai and Delhi is likely to reduce by nearly 2 hours.