One of the many promises under which Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated was the creation of a separate railway zone for the state headquartered at Visakhapatnam. Now, five years after the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act of 2014 came into effect, the Ministry of Railways granted the state a separate railway zone.
The South Coast Railway (SCoR) will comprise of the Guntakal, Guntur and Vijayawada divisions. It was in September 2018 that several MPs from the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) met with South Central Railway General Manager Vinod Kumar Yadav and protested before his office, demanding a separate railway zone for the state. At the time, Vinod Kumar told the media that he was not the competent authority to decide on the issue, and that the decision had to be taken by the Railway Board under the Ministry of Railways.
TDP MPs had pointed out that the railway zone was part of item 8 of Schedule 13 (infrastructure) of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014.
However, the move is also expected to raise eyebrows as with the formation of the new zone, the previous Waltair division will now be split into two -- one part will be incorporated into the new zone and the other will be merged with the Vijayawada division. The Waltair division raked in a large chunk of revenue and its division is likely to upset the TDP.
The remaining portion of the Waltair division will be converted into a new division, with headquarters at Rayaguda under the East Coast railway (EcoR).
The demand for a separate zone, with its headquarters at Visakhapatnam, is often clubbed with protests for granting Special Category Status to Andhra. Many along Andhra’s northern coast have reiterated the demand.
Those who demanded it have pointed out there are several benefits to a railway zone with its headquarters at Visakhapatnam. Besides giving the state its own exclusive zone, which will be able to decide the starting points of trains within the division, it is also expected to help generate more revenue for Andhra Pradesh.
The Railway Recruitment Board (RRB) in Bhubaneshwar is where locals from the state have to travel to, in order to apply and attend interviews for jobs in the Visakhapatnam region as well, but with the announcement of a separate zone, another RRB office could be established in the coastal city.
Andhra Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu had repeatedly assured his state that a railway zone would definitely be established, with its headquarters at Visakhapatnam.
In March 2018, Union Home Secretary Rajiv Sauba had said that the new zone was not feasible as per reports of feasibility studies conducted in the promised zone. His comment had then triggered protests in the state.
The South Central Railway, from which the new zone has been carved out, will now comprise of Hyderabad, Secunderabad and Nanded divisions.