Thiruvananthapuram: The Southern Railways' timely initiative to launch a website exclusively for the outstation Sabarimala pilgrims has turned out to be a huge success, according to the Railway officials. As the Mandalakalam (the pilgrimage season) drew to a close on Wednesday, the website, www.railyatri.in/sabarimala, launched by the Southern Railway four weeks ago, has proved to be an instant hit among thousands of pilgrims to the Lord Ayyappa shrine.
The site has been giving the status of trains in the limits of Chengannur, Thiruvalla and Kottayam, the main landing and boarding points of travellers arriving on train for one of the largest annual pilgrimage in the country.
The site statistics show that the majority of the visitors were from the South Indian states, and notably, pilgrims from Tamil Nadu have made the maximum use of the services provided by the website.
In the past one week, the site drew 21,000 from Tamil Nadu, followed by 8,750 from Karnataka and 2,000 from Andhra Pradesh.
However, Southern Railway Thiruvananthapuram Divisional Railway manager Rajesh Agrwal says the website was launched not considering the dam issue. "The idea struck me during the review on arrangements for the pilgrimage season.
Every year, during the pilgrimage season, Railway officials have a tough time answering the telephone queries regarding train statuses. And helpline number 139 will always get clogged with numerous calls. So we thought of introducing a portal giving information," he said.
Agarwal said the facility has found success with large number of pilgrims logging on to the site to get real time updates.
The visitors can also watch the train status plotted on a satellite map and maximum accuracy is ensured, says Manish Rathi, CEO of Stelling Technologies that manages the website.
The website's popularity increased among pilgrims from Tamil Nadu after the dam issue began, said a senior Railway official. "Ever since the dam issue started, the number of pilgrims arriving on trains increased for safety concerns. Pilgrim arrivals at the three stations show a huge increase when compared to the previous years," he said.