For Karnataka, the creation four years ago of a new railway zone, South Western Railway (SWR), has been a boon. The zone, which was created by amalgamating the reorganized Hubli division of the South Central Railway with the Bangalore and Mysore divisions of the Southern Railway, has its headquarters at Hubli. Besides Karnataka, the zone also encompasses railway routes passing through parts of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Goa and Maharashtra.

South Western RailwaySouth Western Railway was created by amalgamating the reorganized Hubli division from South Central Railway with Bangalore & Mysore divisions of Southern Railway. This railway has become operational from 1st of April, 2003 with its head quarter at Hubli in the state of Karnataka.
The zone encompasses railway routes passing through Karnataka and parts of Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, Goa & Maharashtra.

The South Western Railway is one of the 16 railway zones in India. It is headquartered at Hubli and comprises Bangalore and Mysore divisions of the erstwhile Southern Railway and reorganized Hubli division of the erstwhile South Central Railway including Hospet-Bellary. It came into existence on April 1, 2003. Important trains operated by this zone are the Karnataka Express (Bangalore – New Delhi), the Rani Chennamma Express (Bangalore – Kolhapur), Gol Gumbaz Express (Bangalore – Solapur), Basava Express (Bangalore – Bagalkot), Jan Shatabdi Express (Bangalore – Hubli), Siddaganga Intercity Express (Bangalore – Dharwad), Udyan Express (Bangalore – Mumbai), Karnataka Samparkranti Express (Bangalore – New Delhi), Hampi Express (Bangalore – Hubli), Duranto superfast non stop trains (Bangalore – Kolkata)& (Bangalore – New Delhi), Bangalore-Chennai Mail, the Lalbagh Express (Bangalore – Chennai), and the Shatabdi Express (Bangalore – Chennai),Bangalore-Mysore Tippu Express,Vasco Da Gama-H.Nizammudin Goa Express.

South Western Railway covers most of the railway lines in the state of Karnataka, with the following exceptions:
The west coast railway line is under Konkan Railway,but the KRCL and SWR logos can be seen on the trains together.Vasco-Da-Gama(Goa) is part of SWR managed by Hubli Division.
Mangalore, a major city on the coast of Karnataka, which comes under the Palghat division, of the Southern Railway Zone.

People of Karnataka State have been demanding creation of three more divisions under SWR – Davangere, Mangalore and Gulbarga for better operational efficiency. As noted, currently Mangalore is with the Palghat division of Southern Railway and hence there are demands that the station be brought under South Western Railway (SWR) and the regions surrounding Mangalore be brought under one division with Mangalore as its headquarters. With the Hassan-Mangalore section of SWR being commissioned, it is felt that creation of this division will go a long way in strengthening the railway network of Karnataka and provide better facilities for the region.

South Western Railway 1When the proposed Hubli-Ankola line gets ready, railway network of the State would get a further boost and propel greater economic activity. This line will also provide connectivity to the Konkan Railway section between Mangalore and Roha at three points — Mangalore, Ankola and Madgaon. The completion of the proposed Hubli-Ankola line would make transport of manganese and iron ore from Bellary to coastal region for further movement in ships easy.

The creation of the SWR has resulted in a good rail infrastructure network in Karnataka, besides speeding up the conversion of metre gauge tracks into broad gauge ones. Praveen Kumar, General Manager, SWR, said: “Since the formation of the new zone and up to March 2007, we converted 237 kilometres of rail network to broad gauge. This financial year we shall convert another 170 km to broad gauge. We have already completed the Bijapur-Bagalkot route, while the Mysore-Chamarajanagar route will be done in six months. Broad gauge conversion will open the routes to the rest of the Indian Railways network.”

At present only the Shimoga-Talguppa and Bagalkot-Gadag routes have metre gauge tracks. Even these will be converted in 2009-10. The Chikkabalapur-Kolar metre gauge line is currently closed to traffic.

Praveen Kumar said that besides the Bangalore-Mysore line (which will be completed in three years), the SWR had taken up track doubling on the Bangalore-Tumkur line and de-bottlenecking on the Arsikere-Birur line. Lines are also being constructed between Bangalore and Hassan, Kottur and Harihar, Hubli and Ankola, Raidurg and Tumkur, Bangalore and Mettupalayam (via Chamarajanagar) and Kadur and Sakleshpur.

The General Manager said to that the SWR had been emphasising the strengthening and doubling of routes on which iron ore was carried. “The majority of the iron ore from Karnataka’s Hospet-Bellary belt goes either to Chennai or to Goa. We are already doubling the tracks between Bellary and Hospet. We also hope to double the track from Hospet to Castle Rock. This doubling will cost us Rs.1,000 crore. Sanction has already been received for the Hubli-Hebsur and the Dharwad-Kambarganvi lines.”

On routes that see the bulk of the iron ore traffic, the SWR is upgrading the existing 22.5-tonne axle load tracks to 25 tonnes, so as to allow wagons to carry not 90 tonnes of freight, but 100 tonnes. Higher-powered locomotives are also being requisitioned for these routes. The signalling system is also being upgraded with the addition of electronic systems.

Another thrust area for the SWR has been the use of information technology in the train information and ticket reservation systems. The stations have been improved aesthetically and functionally.

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