Intercities in Kerala - History and Degradation
by Jimmy Jose
I am making a note on history of intercities on Southern Railway. First I start off with the state I am from, Kerala. There are many daytime intercities here, infact, all the long distance trains get status of intercities since either the first or final leg of thier journey will be during the day time in Kerala. The reason why so many such trains find place here is the sheer number of smaller cities huddled up close to each other. I first write about Venad, Vanchinad and Intercity express
Venad Express: Started with much fanfare in 1976 as a convenient day time connection between Trivandrum and Ernakulam South (Jn), via Kottayam. It used to leave trivandrum at 5.30 am then and reach Ernakulam by 9.30 am. On the return it used to leave Ernakulam at 5.15 pm and reach Trivandrum by 9.30 pm (kindly clarify the timings, if someone has an old TT). The response was so overwhelming that soon railways was forced to introduce double decker cars. The train had a Green livery, similar to the old Brindavan. It also had a refreshment car. The train used to have a completely unreserved, even for first class accomodation. It had two FC sitting coaches and the rest were General GS, padded and vestibuled. The crowd was so much that the Pantry Car vestibule doors had to be claosed to avoid the crowed spilling over. Later, the double decker coaches were removed and colour changed to regular VB maroon. Soon, extented to Shoranaur. The Ernakulam-Shoranaur trip is a huge loss making venture. Coaches are almost empty. In the late 1990's, the train was made double headed, but soon disappeared after the WDM 2C's appeared.
Now, Venad is just a mere shadow of it's past. The fastest train in the Trivandrum-Ernakulam route is now the one of the slowest. Takes four hours fifty minutes to cover the distance and is never on time. Now, it shares it's crowd with two trains, TVC-ERS Jan Shatabdi and Trivandrum-mangalore Parasuram. It is one of the most sluggish trains one will come across on IR. The Erode WDM 2C struggles with the innumerable stops on the 22 coach rake. Office goers still prefer the train because it has a convinent time raching Ernakulam at 9.50 am for them and a conveneint time leaving, at 5.15 pm, exactly suited for the crowd. It now has reserved GS coaches, AC Chair car and First class. Now, it leaves Trivandrum at 5.00 am reacher Ernakulam at 9.50, leaves Ernakulam at 5.15 pm, reaching Trivandrum by 10.30 pm.
Vanchinad Express: Started in 1985 as the opposite of Venad, leaving Ernakulam at 6.00 am and reaching Trivandrum by 9.50 am, via Kottayam. On the return, leaving Trivandrum by 5.05 pm and reaching Ernakulam by 9.05 pm. Venad had more than ten stops. The superfast Vanchinad had just two. Kottayam and Quilon. Railways ensured that it gets the maximum priority and all the other trains crossing it's path had to wait on the single line track, including Kerala exp. Sharp timings were maintained. First, it had green coaches, later regular maroon. Again green and then once more the regular maroon. Finally, the blue VB. It too had no reserved sitting, which was later introduced. It had a first class, later converted to AC chair car. Known as Executive Express to common man. It kept the timings till 1995 or so.
Soon, politicians started interfering with the timings and speed. Stop at Chengannur was introduced reluctantly. Each MLA wanted the train to stop in his constituency. Now, it has 11 stops. These stops came in just 7 years time, between 1995 and 2002. The timings are leaving Ernakulam at 5.45 am and reach trivandrum by 10.10 am. Leave Trivandrum by 5.05 pm and reach Ernakulam by 9.25 pm. The fall is so drastic that a person who has travelled by the train in 1990 will never beleive that it is the same train. It now shares it's load with the Trivandrum-Ernakulam Intercity Exp.
Trivandrum-Ernakulam Intercity Exp: Commenced operation in 1994, leaving Ernakulam at 6.45 am, raching Trivandrum at 11.10 am, returning at 4.30 pm and reaching Ernakulam at 8.40 pm. Later, the timings were made dep at 6.15 am and reaching at 10.40 am. The train travels through the newly laid Alleppey route. Some stops were added enroute, but the timings never changed.
This train was the first express train allocated to the WDM2's from Ernakulam shed. Both Vanchinad and Intercity are behind Ernakulam locos now.
I once travelled along with DRM, Trivandrum Division on the train. There were so much office goers. I asked him why so many office goers when the train reaches only at 10.40 am, all offices open by 10 am. The reply he gave was fantastic. Trivandrum has only Govt. offices. The train has been timed exactly for them. Even though the office timings are 10 am to 5 pm, for them, it is 11 am to 4 pm. So, the timings are most suited for them.