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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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1000 stranded as train stops midway

Alipurduar, Dec. 5: Near about 1,000 passengers were left in the lurch when the 2345 UP Saraighat Express was terminated here today.

The train, which had started from Calcutta, was bound for Guwahati in Assam.

Among the passengers was a four-year-old boy who was going back to Guwahati after an open-heart surgery in Calcutta.

Five persons were injured after RPF jawans lathicharged the passengers who squatted on the tracks to protest against the sudden termination of the train.

Officials of Northeast Frontier Railway said maintenance work on the signal system in Guwahati had forced them to cancel the train.

Two hours behind schedule, the express reached the station at 6.15 am instead of 4.26 am. The passengers were told over the public address system that train would not move any further and all 967 people aboard the express would have to avail of the services of other trains bound for Guwahati.

Irate passengers, who alleged that the express had been cancelled without prior intimation, set up a blockade for Dadar Express ' bound for Guwahati ' for three hours. As a result, all other trains, including Rajdhani Express, passing through this route, ran late today.

While a few passengers of Saraighat Express boarded the Dadar Express to head for Guwahati, others took the Bramhaputra Mail and Bangalore Express. Tonight the Saraighat will leave for Howrah at its scheduled time.

Dipankar Saha, a Guwahati-based businessman, whose four-year-old son Dipanjan had the open-heart surgery, said: 'I paid Rs 160 extra for three tatkal tickets. The railways should not have issued them, 24 hours before departure, if they had decided to terminate the train here.'

Biplab Debnath of Silchar, who had been injured in the right knee during the lathi charge, said the 'use of force was unnecessary'.

Divisional railway manager of Alipurduar Arjun Rakshit said the decision to terminate Saraighat Express was taken on December 3. 'We decided to terminate the train on December 5 and 8 due to operational reasons. We had also published notifications in this regard in every newspaper. Notices were also put up at all stations. Announcements were made at Howrah. I will have to verify if the tickets issued were actually tatkal.'

Mourya denied that the passengers had been lathicharged.

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