A trip to Historic Cochin Harbour Terminus Station Ernakulam

Cochin Harbour Terminus (CHTS) is one of the railway stations in the city of Kochi, in the state of Kerala, India. It is located on the Willingdon Island. The Cochin Harbour Terminus is the principal station providing rail connectivity to the southern segment of the Port of Kochi located on the Willingdon Island. (Catering to the northern segment of the port located on Vallarpadam, is a separate rail-route and an exclusive container station). And hence it mainly handles goods transport in and out of the Kochi Port. Cochin Harbour Treminus Railway station is not in use after the commissioning of Vallarpadam container terminus. The station is now locked and all the trains to this station from Ernakulam Junction were stopped in 2013. Currently this station is under renovation for the suburban rail networks in Kochi and will be re-open in 2017.

Cochin Harbour Terminus railway station was built mainly for handling the cargo from Cochin Harbour .A port is never complete without a railway line. Earlier the trains came only up till the Ernakulam Terminus.The station had a metre gauge line to Shoranur. This had to be converted to broad gauge to connect it to rest of India. The new broad gauge line would pass through Ernakulam into Willingdon Island. Many different routes were studied and new stations were planned, and built along the way. These were Ernakulam Town, Ernakulam Jn, Perumanur (non-existent), Mattancherry Halt and finally, Cochin Harbour Terminus.More than the passenger traffic, freight traffic was anticipated .The huge Venduruthy Bridge had to be built to connect Willingdon Island with the mainland. The road bridge across Vembanad Lake was sanctioned and the engineers submitted their plan for a rail bridge alongside the road bridge and it was approved in 1936. Construction work started almost immediately and was completed in 1938.

Freight Traffic

Tea, coffee, coir, cotton and other export consignments came here by wagonloads from the harbour, to be loaded to distant destinations across the world. Its strategic location made it a strong revenue-pulling base for freight traffic. A separate Coal Berth had to be built next to the wharf to cater to the terminus’s constant demand for fuel.A station named Cochin Berth Station was also constructed near Cochin port so that trains from Cochin Harbour Terminus railway station will come there to offload passengers and freight directly to the ships waiting on the side. This station is less than 10 metres from the water.There was a 60-ton railway weigh bridge in the railway station which used to weigh tea that arrived from Mettupalayam by Tea Garden Express.The 1980s saw significant growth in passenger and freight traffic from the station. A new container yard was built and storage facilities for ammonia, sulphur and coal were started near the station.

Video – Akhil Asok

Passenger Traffic

The passenger trains became operational from the station in 1943 with the introduction of Cochin-Shornur Junction passenger.This train had almost the same schedule till it skipped the station,with a service each in the morning and evening.The introduction of the Madras-Cochin Express (now Chennai-Alleppey Express) in 1944 that also had through coaches to Bangalore and Bombay elevated the status of this station. Being the British Raj era, these trains had separate coaches for privileged goods and travellers. Around the same time another ride, which added a lot of charm was the Ooty-Cochin Tea Garden Express (now Tiruchirapally-Ernakulam Express) set off from this terminus.Later the Island Express (now Kanyakumari-Bangalore Express) named after Willingdon Island also started in 1960’s. A train to Chennai(Madras), leaving Cochin in the afternoon was introduced later. An important landmark in the history of this terminus was in 1961 when the first diesel train was flagged of by the then Railway Minister, when many other parts of India still ran on steam. By this time this railway station had become a major focal point for passenger and cargo movement. The next two decades witnessed more trains chugging off from this terminus. A second train to Madras (now the Chennai-Trivandrum Mail) set forth. With the opening of this station many other trains like the Jayanthi Janatha,Netravathi, Dadar, Rajkot, Patna, Bilaspur Expresses commenced operations.This terminus was directly linked to all the important and remote destinations of India.Around 16 trains started from this station during the peak time of operation.

Video – Krish Menon

There are various reasons which can be attributted to the downfall of cochin harbour terminus station.

  • Shifting of Base station

Cochin Harbour Terminus railway station suffered a major setback in 1978, when Thiruvananthapuram was selected over Kochi as the base station of Southern India Railways, in spite of protests and uproar in the Parliament, contributed heavily to the sidelining of this station.

  • Opening of new stations Ernakulam Junction and Ernakulam Town

As the new stations Ernakulam Junction and Ernakulam Town were inaugurated most of the passenger trains were diverted to these stations and there by passenger patronage decreased.

  • Rail Link extensions to Trivandrum and Alappuzha

As the rail link connecting to Trivandrum Central via Kottayam and Ernakulam-Kayamkulam coastal railway line via Alappuzha was completed many trains were diverted from Cochin Harbour Terminus to Trivandrum Central.Remaining trains has been diverted to Ernakulam Junction also.The shifting of train routes started in 1991, when the Cochin-Madras Express, was extended to Alappuzha.

  • Objection of Navy in electrification of line

In 1996 the Railways charted out the electrification route and decided to make this terminus the focal point. But the Navy and the Civil Aviation Department objected due to the risks involved for the incoming and ongoing flights at the Cochin Airport. The electrification was thus done only till the Ernakulam Junction. The six-kilometre route from Ernakulam to Island was thereby left out and remained unelectrified.Also there has been no passenger services through the Harbour Terminus for over a decade after a dredger hit the Venduruthy Bridge in 2004.

Old Train Route Existing Train Route
Cochin Harbour Terminus-Shornur Junction passenger Ernakulam Junction-Shornur Junction passenger
Cochin Harbour Terminus-Chennai Mail Trivandrum-Chennai Trivandrum Mail
Cochin Harbour Terminus-Dadar Express Discontinued
Cochin Harbour Terminus-Trichy Tea Garden Express Ernakulam-Karaikal Express
Cochin Harbour Terminus-Nizammudin Mangala Lakshadweep Express Ernakulam-Nizammudin Mangala Lakshadweep Express
Cochin Harbour Terminus-Rajkot Express Ernakulam-Okha Express
Cochin Harbour Terminus-Patna Express Ernakulam-Patna Express
Cochin Harbour Terminus-Varanasi Express Ernakulam-Rajendra Nagar Express
Cochin Harbour Terminus-Gorakhpur Raptisagar Express Trivandrum-Gorakhpur Raptisagar Express
Cochin Harbour Terminus-Indore express Trivandrum-Indore Ahilyanagari Express
Cochin Harbour Terminus-Bilaspur express Trivandrum-Korba Korba Express
Cochin Harbour Terminus-Howrah express Trivandrum-Shalimar(Howrah) Express
Cochin Harbour Terminus-Hyderabad Sabari Express Trivandrum-Hyderabad Sabari Express
Cochin Harbour Terminus-Bombay Netravati Express Trivandrum-Lokmanya Tilak Terminus Netravati Express
Cochin Harbour Terminus-Bangalore Island Express Kanyakumari-Trivandrum-Bangalore Island Express
Cochin Harbour Terminus-Mangalore Parasuram Express Nagercoil-Mangalore Parasuram Express
Cochin Harbour Terminus-Mumbai VT Jayanti Janatha Express Kanyakumari-Mumbai CST Express


Once the passenger services from Cochin Harbour Terminus is revived after the completion of the new Venduruthy bridge,it would serve as the third railway station in Kochi city.