Thursday, Feb 27, 2003
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By Our Special Correspondent
The positive remarks made by Mr. Kumar, Railway Minister, during his visit to Hubli to lay the foundation stone for offices of the new zone, less than a fortnight ago, had raised hopes. Responding to requests for the introduction of trains, and a daily service to Mumbai, Mr. Kumar said: "Await the Budget, and you will know what we are planning to do. We will see that your projects do not suffer for want of funds.''
A biweekly train service linking Bangalore and Mumbai via Hubli, and a weekly train to Chennai and Vasco da Dama in Goa have been introduced.
However, the introduction of the biweekly service between Bangalore and Mumbai is not comparable to the facility that the region enjoyed before the advent of the uni-gauge programme.
Under directions of Madhu Dandavate as the Railway Minister in the Janata Government at the Centre, a direct train service between Bangalore and Mumbai had been provided via Hubli, despite the change over from metre-gauge to broad-gauge at Miraj. The train was then known as Mahalaxmi Express and, as an alternative to existing service via Guntakal, Wadi, and Gulbarga, it attracted patronage for the 25-hour journey it offered between the two cities.
The service was withdrawn after the uni-gauge work programme began in 1992, and the promise of restoring the service between the two cities on broad-gauge has been met only partially, after a delay of nearly a decade.
One of the demands of the people of the region, who still have a Mumbai orientation from the business point of view, was a daily train to Mumbai, instead of the Chalukya Express, which runs three days a week. Details about the route of the new train, to know whether it will fill the gap, are awaited.
Another casualty of the uni-gauge programme was a direct train service between Bangalore and Vasco da Gama in Goa. Despite the announcement made a couple of years ago about the introduction of such a train, nothing has materialised. What has been given is only a weekly service connecting Chennai, and not Bangalore.
The new service reminds one of the direct east coast to west train service between Machilipatnam and Marmagoa that existed long ago, with a facility for changing trains in Hubli.
The service was getting truncated when more areas were brought under broad-gauge. However inadequate the service that has been introduced, it offers, for the first time, a direct train connection between Hubli and Chennai once a week.
Another small mercy shown to North Karnataka is the extension of the weekly service between Yeshwantpur and Solapur to Bijapur, on the newly converted broad-gauge route. Although the route had been brought under the broad-gauge network, there was no good train service on the sector, with the converted route being used for meeting the needs of local commuters.
With the extension of the Yeshwantpur-Solapur train to Bijapur, the historical place of Bijapur gets its first direct train connection to Bangalore. Perhaps this has materialised courtesy of the BJP MP from Bijapur, Basangouda Patil Yatnal, who is the Union Minister of State for Textile at the Centre. The potential of the line will be realised if the broad-gauge work is continued to provide a link with Gadag, which lies on the Hubli-Guntakal trunk line.
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