Kochi: The new train connecting Kochi to the temple towns of Palani, Madurai and Rameswaram got off to a flying start with more than 80 percent of tickets sold off for the inaugural trip on Sunday.
The 06035 Ernakulam-Rameswaram Special train is scheduled to start from Ernakulam at 4 pm every Sunday and reach Rameswaram at 4 am the next day. The return train (06036) will start from Rameswaram at 10 pm on Mondays and reach Ernakulam at 10:15 am the next day.
It stops at Aluva, Thrissur, Palakkad Junction, Palakkad Town, Pollachi, Udumalpet, Palani, Dindigal, Madurai, Manamadurai and Ramanathapuram.
The train was greeted with enthusiasm but passengers were a bit peeved at the railway for charging them at the higher tatkal ticket rates. Passengers were charged the same amount whether they boarded the train from Ernakulam, Thrissur or Palakkad.
Of the 936 berths in sleeper coaches, 776 found takers on the first day. While 663 passengers booked tickets to Rameswaram, the rest of them were mostly bound for Palani or Madurai.
Frequent passengers welcomed the service but put forward a suggestion to push the schedule by a few hours to make it more convenient.
“It will be better if the train reached Rameswaram after 6 am,” said Shibin Das, who works in a seafood processing company at Rameswaram. “It is not easy find a place to stay at Rameswaram at 4 am. The current schedule also denies the passengers a chance to enjoy the passing over the Pamban bridge on the way to Rameswaram,” he said.
Passengers also want the railway to run this train every day. Most of them were pilgrims. They were happy that the railway finally responded to the long-standing demand for a train from Kerala to the popular holy places in Tamil Nadu, including the dargah at Erwadi.
“May be they can run this train every day so that we can go to all these destinations at one go,” said Ramesh and Lakshmi, who were on a pilgrimage to Rameswaram.
Some of the passengers reminisced the days when a trip to Rameswaram was kind of adventurous during the times of the meter gauge tracks. “We had to get down at Palakkad and proceed to Rameswaram in a slow-moving passenger train,” Fakruddin and Haneefa said.
“When the meter gauge was gone, we had to switch buses multiple times. That used to be an ordeal when you traveled with your family,” they said.
The train takes 12 hours to complete is 558-kilometer journey. The train could afford to leave Ernakulam later than 4 pm and still reach its destination on time if the running speed is tweaked. The train reaches Madurai in the middle of the night. Passengers want to reach Madurai at around 4 am, rather than the present 12:30 am.