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Howrah limps back on track

Railway services limped back to normal at Howrah station on Sunday after the authorities signalled a successful completion of the remodelling of the route relay interlocking (RRI) system in the morning.

Despite the authorities’ assurance that services will be back to normal at 6 am on Sunday, about one-fifth of the suburban trains were cancelled. Five long-distance trains had to be rescheduled because of the “teething problems” and officials said some more trouble could be expected on Monday as well.

Delhi-bound Rajdhani Express, slated to leave Howrah at 1.35 pm, started two hours behind schedule because of problems in placing the pilot-engine on the track. One long-distance train (Howrah-Gaya Express) was cancelled and Gwalior Express, Coalfield Express, Kalka Mail, Doon Express and the Bombay Mail were rescheduled.

After a job “well done” — it prompted the authorities to boast that they were applying to the Guinness Book of World Records for completing RRI remodelling in the shortest time (28 hours and 30 minutes) — officials admitted that all trains could be stranded “frequently” for a few minutes over the next few days on a two-km stretch between the sorting yard cabin and Chandmari bridge.

But passengers have a lot to gain from the overhauling of the RRI system, say officials. “The existing speed-limit of 15 kph for this two-km distance will now be raised to 30 kph,” a railway official said, adding that Eastern Railway(ER) had already applied to the Commissioner for Railway Safety for this increment in speed.

ER’s Howrah division runs 140 pairs of suburban trains on the Tarakeshwar and Burdwan routes (main and chord lines) everyday and South Eastern Railway 68 pairs. Officials said the former was affected more and added that a bulk of the 20 per cent cancellations was ER trains.

Though there were fewer passengers on Sunday, those who did travel to and from Howrah were stranded for several minutes between Howrah and Bally, officials admitted.

“But we had to do this,” a senior ER official said. “The old RRI system, installed in 1965, had a 15-year life,” he said, adding that it had outlived its stipulated lifespan by 23 years. “The new system means that the terminal will now be able to handle 1,136 routes and 176 signals,” he said, explaining the benefits of the Rs-3.5 crore overhauling.

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