Ahmedabad - Ernakulam
by Ramesh Krishna Murthy
Havent posted any message on irfca for quite some time now, tho' i have been actively reading all the mails. Just returned today after a 1 week vacation. Here's the report.(Sorry, couldnt take any photos)
Left ADI by 9110 ADI-Valsad Gujarat Queen, reached BRC in 2 hrs flat. Quite a lot of troop movement near ADI. Saw the Mumbai Raj at BRC, came in with Valsad WCAM2P, left with GZB WAP5 30010. This was only the 2nd time I saw the WAP5 from close quarters( earlier had seen it at NDLS with the HWH Raj). My train to ERS, 2978 Marusagar exp(Jaipur-ERS) was on time at BRC (left at 22:35), hauled the entire distance from Jaipur to ERS by rebuilt Ratlam WDM2C 18626R running LHF. I had specifically booked the lower berth, intending to have frequent looks out of the window during the night. Unfortunately, a lady with a child was sleeping on it, so I had to go up. However, I took the window seat in the morning.
This was my 1st trip on KR, the earlier trips were via Dharmavaram-Wadi due to the Kadalundi disaster. Certainly, KR is a very enchanting route, fantastic scenery, long tunnels, no cabins....The train went upto 110 kmph on several occasions. An interesting thing I observed on KR (which AFAIK has not been mentioned on irfca before) was the use of steel meshes on the cutting walls to protect the track from landslides.
On arriving at ERS, saw the rebuilt wdm2 17519. The loco's short hood had been completely smashed earlier and had to be rebuilt in the form of a car body. A photo of this exists on one of IRFCA members' sites, dont remember which one.
The return was by 6346 Netravati exp, hauled by Erode WDM2C 18536R running SHF. Observed that most locos on KR are Erode wdms, with the occasional KYN or ERS loco. However, the mandovi exp had a KJM loco.
One of the unreserved coaches developed a brake problem before Ratnagiri, leading to a 3 hr delay. Reached Panvel at 19:45 instead of 16:45. To save time (since 6346 goes to LTT),I got down at Thane and took a local to Dadar. Had just enough time to have a couple of samosas for dinner, and then took the 2901 Gujarat Mail to ADI, hauled by Valsad WCAM1 21851(I have travelled by this train earlier, then it had a WCAM2P).Saw the ADI Shatabdi with WCAM2P and Golden temple Mail with WCAM1 at Dadar.
Spotted two Rajdhani-liveried WDP2s at Vasai Road. Unfortunately, we were moving too fast(besides the darkness) for me to see the number or the shed. 1 thing that has perturbed me for quite some time now is the extremely low volume of freight traffic on KR, undoubtedly the reason for its continued losses. The innovative RO-RO scheme has helped to some extent, but then many of these rakes were take away for military duty during the Kargil war. The other zonal railways viz CR,SCR and SR are loath to lose their traffic to KR and so we've the sorry spectacle of freight from Mumbai to Kerala coming via Wadi.
KR's obvious disadvantage is that there is no major source/destination on KR itself. Mumbai incl. the port at Nhava Sheva(JNPT)is served by CR and Kerala is entirely on SR. Mangalore port is under SR and even the Mormugao port in Goa is on SCR. So KR has to depend on other zones to fetch traffic for it and CR and SR certainly dont want to lose their tonne-km to KR. Also, many industrial projects which were supposed to come up at Ratnagiri havent materialized.
All this will only lead to the railways losing more customers to road transport. Unlike SER which has the major steel plants as its captive customers(steel plants cant move their coal and iron ore by road), KR/CR/SR have to compete with road transport. If the current situation continues, there doesnt seem to be much hope for KR.