Fog may have been the principal factor to throw train schedules into disarray over the past few weeks, but on Thursday morning, the human factor, too, was responsible. Several long-distance and suburban trains on the Howrah-Burdwan chord section of Eastern Railway (ER) were left stranded by a blockade set up by residents at Dhaniakhali station.
According to ER officials, the residents had blocked the tracks demanding that more local trains halt at their station. Dhaniakhali station, between Baruipara and Chandanpur, was inaugurated in the first week of December last year. “Now, 45 per cent of the local trains stop at Dhaniakhali. However, the residents want all the local trains on the section to halt there,” a railway official said.
The blockade started from 6 am and continued till 8.30 am. The agitators withdrew after officials of Government Railway Police intervened and requested them to lift the blockade.
The Up Howrah-Guwahati Kanchenjanga Express and Howrah-Ranchi Shatabdi Express were stuck for nearly two hours in the blockade as was the Down Danapur Express. The Down Darjeeling Mail and Asansol-Howrah Agnibina Express had to be diverted through the Bandel-Naihati route to Sealdah and Howrah, respectively, ER officials said. The agitation stalled five EMU locals.
Railway officials later said the agitators’ demand was unreasonable. “There was no pressing need for the station, but since there were demands from various quarters, we decided to set it up,” a senior official said. “However, the demand that all trains halt there is unjust and will not be accepted,” he added.
Meanwhile, dense fog in northern India and various parts of the state forced mail and express trains to move at funereal speed on Thursday. Although the mercury jumped up a few degrees, trains continued to arrive late at Howrah and Sealdah.
The New Delhi-Howrah Rajdhani was 10 hours late, while the New Delhi-Sealdah Rajdhani was late by 12 hours. Trains that arrived late at Howrah include the Poorva Express (10 hours), Jodhpur Express (nine hours and 30 minutes), Kalka Mail (seven hours and 30 minutes), Amritsar Mail (11 hours), Amritsar Express (12 hours), Mumbai Mail via Allahabad (four hours) and Udayan Abha Toofan Express (eight hours). The Jammu Tawi Express reached Sealdah 11 hours behind schedule.
Departures of the Up Poorva Express, Kalka Mail, Shipra Express and Howrah-Patna Janshatabdi Express were rescheduled. Local trains, affected by the fog till around 10 am, ran 30 minutes late on an average.