The Madurai-Tirunelveli-Kannyakumari railway doubling project, spanning a length of 276km, is awaiting approval from the Planning Commission. The project, including the Maniachi-Tuticorin section, for which the survey has been completed long back, was recently approved by the Railway Board.
The Ministry of Railway had sanctioned the survey in its 2012-13 railway budget. The Madurai-Tirunelveli-Kannyakumari railway doubling is part of the Chennai-Kanyakumari doubling project. The proposal for a broad gauge double line between Chennai and Kanyakumari was forwarded to the then Prime Minister, A.B. Vajpayee, in 2002.
Considering the potential of this route, the Ministry of Railways allowed doubling for Chennai-Villupuram-Trichy-Madurai sections in different phases and the works are going on in different stages, which are expected to complete by 2016.
The 738km Chennai-Trichy-Madurai-Kanyakumari railway line is the most important route of the Southern Railway of Indian Railways, as it connects the entire part of Tamil Nadu. According to the Tamil Nadu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, if the project is approved by the Planning Commission, work on this section would also be completed parallel with other sections of the Chennai-Kanyakumari route.
The project would also boost operational efficiency, tourism, increased freight and passenger traffic, industrialisation in the region and would support the freight movement of Tuticorin port and upcoming ports at Colachel and Vizhingam in Kerala.
But the slow work on doubling lines and delay in opening new ones has once again deprived the Southern Railway. According to sources, Southern Railway was allotted Rs675 crore in the 2013-14 railway budget for ongoing projects—new railway lines, gauge conversion and doubling of tracks. Although the projected fund was over Rs.1,000 crore for completion of the schemes, the revised railway budget has further reduced the allocation to Rs.585 crore. With 37 pending projects, Southern Railway is struggling with scarcity of funds.