Kayamkulam: The arrival of coastal railway transformed the Kayalkulam railway station into Kayamkulam junction. When trains started coming through Alappuzha and Kottayam, the number of passengers, platforms and revenue generation increased.
However, no development is happening parallel to this growth. Despite being the main railway junction, several trains do not stop at Kayamkulam. Trains such as Thiruvananthapuram-Hapa, Thiruvananthapuram-Dehradun, Thiruvananthapuram-Chandigarh, Thiruvananthapuram-Chennai (weekly) have no stops here. Though passengers from Alappuzha, Kollam and Pathanamthitta rely on the Kayamkulam Junction, Rajdhani Express and other important trains too have no halts here.
Kayamkulam Junction has five one-kilometre-long platforms but the station entrance, rest rooms and washrooms are at the beginning of the first platform. So, if a passenger gets down at any platform, to reach the main entrance he or she has to walk a kilometer or so carrying luggage.
There are no washrooms on the north side of the platform. Trolley luggage and wheelchairs can be taken only to the second and third platforms. Passengers feel that the fourth platform too should be disabled friendly. The fourth platform, where the trains going to the Thiruvananthapuram side stop, has only some parts covered under a roof. There are no shops selling bottled water. Though there are only two ticket counters, only one is working. By the time passengers from the queue get the tickets, the train could have started moving and those trying to get into the moving train sometimes meet with accidents.
What VM Sudheeran has to say
The coastal railway through Alappuzha is one of the most satisfying things in my public life. My first question in the Parliament when I became an MP was on the coastal railway. In November 1977 I had announced that I would sit on fast if the project was not approved. The then chief minister PK Vasudeven Nair reached Delhi, called a meeting of the MPs and asked them to raise the issue in the Parliament. The project also got the support of the then KPCC president AK Antony and several other leaders. The union railway minister then allocated funds for the project in the budget. In 1996, when I was elected from Alappuzha, I wanted to get the track doubled. The railways has to allot necessary funds and the state government has to acquire land and facilitate the doubling of the railway tracks.
What KC Venugopal, MP, has to say
Though the railways has given approval to double the coastal railway line from Ambalkapuzha to Kumbalam, it has said that the state government has to provide half the funds needed for land acquisition since the prices here are high. The state government has to take an appropriate decision and help speed up the doubling work. It should also put more pressure on the Center in this regard. Instead of starting new routes, priority should be given to the expansion of existing lines that could improve train movement. The doubling work of tracks from Harippad to Kumbalam should be expedited. If there are problems with land acquisition, the state government should intervene. About 99% of land has been acquired for doubling the Harippad-Ambalappuzha track doubling. The district collector has been asked to look into any other problems that may crop up. Kayamkulam has already got 37 underpasses, while Harippad and Ambalappuzha have seven each. To increase safety, 22 railway gates will soon have interlocking system. Six of them have already been completed. One more shift has been added to the reservation counter at Harippad railway station.
Green signal by Nandakumar
G Nandakumar flagged off the first passenger train from Alappuzha to Kayamkulam at 4.55 am on November 21, 1992. Nandakumar, who was the station master then, is the station manager now at the same station.
There was a lot of controversy surrounding the wetland between Thakazhi and Karuvatta when the Alappuzha-Kayamkulam railway track was laid. There were rumours that since the foundation is not strong on the wetland, trains could derail and lead to accidents.
To prove that this is wrong, on the directives of the then chief engineer Ramaswamy and Alappuzha railway engineer Madanmohan, a special train with reporters on board plied on the route two days before the Alappuzha-Kayamkulam route inauguration.
The special train from Alappuzha passed through Koramkuzhi wetland and reach Kayamkulam and returned to Alappuzha safe and sound. Nanadakumar remembers that the news had appeared in newspapers and put to the rumours to rest.
At a ceremony held in Kayamkulam the then chief minister K Karunakaran inaugurated the route. Union minister of state PJ Kurien waved the green flag. When the train returned to Alappuzha, the 'Ministers special train' had passengers like chief minister K Karunakaran and Union minister CK Jaffer Sharif, among others, and people stood on both the sides of the track with lamps in their hands.
The banyan tree that Nandakumar planted during that time in front of the station has been providing shelter to all for the past 25 years. Later, it was Nandakumar himself who showed the green flag to the Intercity Express, the first train from Ernakulam to Thiruvananthapuram via Alappuzha, and the first service of the Alappuzha-Dhanbad Express.
In memory of the first passenger train from Alappuzha to Kayamkulam, Nandakumar had bought the first tickets from all stations -- from Punnapra to Kayamkulam. But none them could withstand the test of time.
Omana Pilla alias Theevandi Pilla
Chettikad Kurushingal Omana Pilla, who fought in the train symbol for both the Assembly and Lok Sabha to demand a coastal railway, came to be known as Theevandi (train) Pilla. The elder son of Srreemoolam Prajasabha member Lonappan Pilla and Saramma, Omana Pilla completed his BA and went to Mumbai to do research in economics and study law. After his studies, he returned and raised the demand for a coastal railway line in 1961. In 1965 he fought in the Assembly polls as an independent candidate with train as his symbol.
Though six out of the seven times he fought the Lak Sabha polls he lost his deposit amount, he could ignite the demand for a coastal railway.
A district development body set up by Pillai in 1979 started submitting submissions in this regard, the state government recommended to the Center to provide land for the railway line. A team led by Pillai went to Delhi and met the then prime minister Morarji Desai and briefed him about the proposal. Soon, the coastal railway line was announced in the railway budget. He died on March 25, 2004.
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