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Wednesday, February 7, 2024

GT Express skips Chennai Central !!

Those days – life moved at leisurely pace.  Long journeys were savoured – people would immediately get introduced and mix with each other – will share the food they carry.  Those city-breds who know not that rice is grown in fields will see lush green fields and trees moving on the opposite side as Train moves – you may see a Cricket match being played.  The bowler will start his run-up, and you would push your neck out without ever knowing what happened to that delivery !

Train journeys are enjoyable ~ one can sit down, relax, chat with fellow-passengers, look outside the window seeing landscapes, trees running behind – see a bowler running in, read books and more .. I have travelled many a times from Chennai to Delhi  (close to 1 ½ days) by Grand Trunk Express  - runs for 34h 25m – a distance of 2182 km at an average speed of 63 kmph - have boarded this train hundred times ! at Vijayawada in the midnight to reach Madras.  It had nos. 2611/2612 – later changed to  12615/6 – in earlier times Trains had  only 4 numbers – the numbering system changed from Dec 2010.

Surprised to read that for the better part of the 19th century, the main railway route from Madras to Calcutta and Delhi was through Bombay!  The Madras-Bombay mail train carried through carriages between Madras and Manmad which were detached at Daund. Passengers would then transfer to the Great Indian Peninsular Railway's Calcutta mail at Manmad to proceed to the northern and the eastern parts of the country. Then came the Grand Trunk Express .. .. GT ran from 1st Apr 1929   after the construction of the Kazipet-Balharshah sectionAs a prestigious train, it was one of the few to have the early methods of air cooling by ice blocks. It also carried a parcel van for urgent consignments.  'Grand Trunk' express commenced operating as two through carriages running between Peshawar in the North Western Railway (British India) and Mangalore in the South Indian Railway.

Grand Trunk Express, Tamil Nadu Express, Vaigai Express are all prestigious trains for Tamilnadu.. .. then came India’s first Rajdhani Express, which revolutionised Indian Railways by way of speed and luxury.  It is  50+ !  now -  celebrated as the flower-bedecked train chugged out of Howrah station on its golden jubilee run.   The first Rajdhani was introduced between Howrah and New Delhi on March 1, 1969. It was initially a bi-weekly 8 car train - Brake/Luggage/Generator, AC I, AC Pantry, AC Chair, AC Chair, AC Chair, AC Chair, Brake/Luggage/Generator - hauled by a single WDM-4.  

Nearer home, the  Chennai Beach – Chennai Egmore 4th  line project is a significant infrastructure project aimed at enhancing the operational efficiency of Chennai city’s rail network and facilitating the introduction of additional passenger and freight services. The project, covering the distance of 4.30 Km. Between Chennai Beach and Chennai Egmore, is carried out at a cost of Rs.279 Crores.

While the construction activities are reportedly in full swing – this has some negative impact too. MRTS services between Chennai Beach and Chintadripet have been temporarily suspended for many months  to facilitate this crucial infrastructure project.  The fourth line, a crucial track infrastructure project, once completed would pave the way for segregating suburban train services, freight, and long distance trains. It would pave the way for operating more long-distance trains towards the Gudur section, easing congestion at Chennai Central railway station.

An official release states that SR expects to   complete the fourth line project from Chennai Beach to Egmore railway stations by March-end and has been simultaneously engaged in engineering and construction works on various fronts.  It is stated that work began in first week of Sept and has been progressing.  Now MRTS is being operated from Chintadripet to Velachery at a much reduced frequency.  The new track was to be installed along a portion of the Cooum river  and passes through three railway stations. Thus, several civic works comprising demolition of platforms, piling work for construction of retaining wall along the Cooum, had to be executed.   Park station has dismantled the existing platform no. 3, which is the critical activity by taking line blocks, and has started foundation work for the passenger platform and fabrication structure at Fort station.

In general, when we speak of trains in Chennai – all trains towards North of Madras start from Central while all South bound trains originate from Chennai Egmore.

Starting today, the New Delhi – Dr Puratchi Thalaivar MGR Chennai Central - Grand Trunk Express will undergo a temporary route change, with its origin and termination shifted to Tambaram. This adjustment will result in the train bypassing MGR Chennai Central and instead making a stop at Chennai Egmore for a period of three months. The alteration is necessitated by ongoing construction work near Chennai Central.

Passengers traveling on the Grand Trunk Express from New Delhi to Chennai will experience changes in their arrival times. The train is scheduled to reach Chennai Egmore at 4:20 am and Tambaram at 5:30 am starting February 7. This adjustment aims to minimize inconvenience for passengers while ensuring smooth operations amid the construction activities near Chennai Central.  Similarly, for passengers departing from Chennai, services of the Grand Trunk Express will depart from Tambaram at 5:00 pm starting February 9. This modification provides an alternative boarding point for passengers while Chennai Central undergoes necessary infrastructure upgrades.

Life is full of changes and success lives in embracing such changes !

With regards – S Sampathkumar

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