For all its status as Kerala’s premier IT destination thanks to Technopark nearby, Kazhakkuttom still has miles to go, it seems, especially with regards to rail connectivity. Techies – and local people too – bemoan the fact that very few trains, and practically none of the long distance ones, plying the busy route to and from the Thiruvananthapuram Central, stop at Kazhakkuttom railway station. They have been angling for increased connectivity for a while now.
Kazhakkuttom, the nearest to Technopark of the three stations that serve the city, usually wears a deserted look. On weekday evenings, around 5.30 p.m. though, the station becomes (perhaps) the busiest of the three. Hundreds of techies and tens of others who work/study in one of the many institutes nearby cram into every available space on the platform to catch the Vanchinad Express, the one and only “useful” train, they say, for those who work in the area. On Friday evenings, the rush for the train, apparently, increases exponentially. “And today evening, when just about everyone will be heading home for the long Onam weekend, it will be a nightmare to even get a foothold on the train,” says Sudhish Radhakrishnan, who works for an multi-national company in Technopark and commutes to Kochi, his hometown, on Fridays.
Anil Kumar T.K., a regular commuter from Kollam to Kazhakkuttom, who works at Elemenz IT Solutions in Technopark, says: “Even if its an early morning commute, getting into Kazhakkuttom is fairly easy with the Madurai-Punalur passenger , the Kollam-Thiruvananthapuram Passenger and the Malabar Express halting there. It’s the return journey that’s the issue. Travellers to Kochi only have the Vanchinad, which goes via Kottayam. So that’s not an option for those proceeding to Alappuzha. Meanwhile, travellers to Kollam have the Passenger trains and the Kanyakumari – Kollam MEMU much later,” he says.
Padmakumar C., managing director, Sigtech Wireless Technology at Technopark, who also travels from Kollam daily, speaks for a lot of fellow commuters when he says: “I have been travelling the route since 2006 and nothing has changed. It really would be of great help if more daily trains stopped at Kazhakkuttom between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. As it happens, we have to watch helplessly as trains such as Jan Shadabti, Chennai Express, and Guruvayur Express, to name but a few, which start from Central station around that time, all whiz by without halting. All we need is a two to three-minute stop for some of these trains. Incidentally, even the Malabar Express doesn’t halt on its way out of the city.”
Also, techies say that the station itself has very little in way of infrastructure. The platform for instance, is open to the elements. “Season tickets are not available there. So, we often end up having to stand in long queues,” says Sudhish. Padmakumar adds: “Autos to Kazhakkuttom are available only around the time the trains come in and even then many of them would be pre-booked. Many of the travellers, men and women, thus end up walking all the way to the junction, which is almost a kilometre away. The connecting road is not safe especially for women, as it doesn’t have proper lighting. There are snakes on the road and, even worse, nefarious elements.”
Then again, isn’t Kochuveli Station only a few miles down the road? And in the evening, there is the alternate option to catch the Kochuveli-Bangalore daily… “Agreed, but its virtually impossible to get to Kochuveli from Technopark during peak hour traffic. If we have to catch the train at 4.50 p.m., we have to leave office by at least 3.30 p.m. Also, buses to Kochuveli are not so frequent and even if they do come, they come in a group, and almost never during peak hours. The only other option is to hire an auto, which costs more than a standard ticket to Ernakulam [Rs. 150 is the standard charge, say techies]! Then, if we do reach Kochuveli, there is a long queue for tickets,” says Mahesh B., who works in customer relations at Optiologic Technologies.
The train of complaints is long but is anyone listening?