Railway minister Mamataa Banerjee on Friday announced three express and two duronto (non-stop) trains for Tamil Nadu and extended the length that some current trains cover, apart from nine new suburban services for the Chennai city train service.
Presenting the railway budget for 2011-12, she said the expansion of the Perambur integral coach factory (ICF), announced in last year, would be carried out soon.
She also announced a special tourist train, Janam Bhoomi Gaurav, to cover places such as Chennai, Puducherry, Madurai and Kanniyakumari – places of historical importance in the state. The political class was not enthused much.
AIADMK general secretary J Jayalalithaa said Mamata Banerjee’s focus on West Bengal with the assembly elections on her mind was nothing but an instance of a national resource being hijacked to serve local political ends. Predictably, she has announced major projects for Nandigram and Singur, where she had launched a successful battle against the West Bengal government’s land acquisition some years ago, Jayalalithaa said the rail budget was pro-people to the extent that there was no hike in passenger fares or freight rates.
MDMK general secretary Vaiko said, “Last time too doubling tracks within Tamil Nadu was promised but not done; this time, barring the announcement of a few trains, nothing substantial has been done for the people of Tamil Nadu. Like Chennai, people in Coimbatore and Madurai were hoping for electric trains, but have been left disappointed. Not enough money has been allocated for the development of railways and railway projects in Tamil Nadu.” The street is not overly ecstatic, either.
Civil rights activist M Ramadoss said the minister ought to have concentrated on improving passenger amenities and safety aspects and the cleanliness of the passenger services.
Said R Ragunathan, a retired insurance employee: “Had she announced a major crackdown on touts at reservation centres, she would have done us a great service. It is extremely difficult to get reservation even if one went well in advance,” he said, echoing the sentiments of many others.