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AC agony on train to hills

Calcutta, June 6: Around 60 passengers inside an air-conditioned Darjeeling Mail coach had to spend over an hour without AC, fans and lights as the power connection snapped minutes after the train left Sealdah at 10.05pm.

The passengers on B1 pulled the emergency chain and stopped the train as it was passing Dum Dum station.

“When the train was entering Dum Dum around 10.15pm, the fans and lights went off. Soon we realised that the AC wasn’t working either,” said Biswanath Deb, a passenger. “We felt stuffy and suffocated. There was no air circulation.”

The passengers alleged that although the train stopped for a few minutes after the chain was pulled, no one came to enquire about the problem. “This shows how careless the railways are in case of emergencies,” said Deb, 55. His wife Sabita, who has high pressure, was travelling with him.

The passengers’ patience ran out after they had to spend another stifling hour on the train. They pulled the chain again when the train reached Hooghly’s Dankuni. “Children started crying. Women and elderly people complained of uneasiness,” Deb said.

The passengers pulled the chain in another coach. “We did not get any response when we pulled the chain in our coach. So we tried from another compartment,” Deb said.

As soon as the train stopped, some of the passengers ran towards the guard’s cabin while the others stood in front of the train.

The guard sent a mechanic to the affected coach. After around 45 minutes, the snag was repaired. But although the fans and lights started working again, the passengers complained that the AC wasn’t functioning properly.

“The air from the AC was so mild that we had to place our hands in front of the slits,” Deb said.

When the passengers complained of a burning smell, the mechanic said some unidentified material had got burnt near the AC machine, causing the snag.

The mechanic promised the passengers that the AC would be repaired fully when the train reached Burdwan.

Deb, however, said four railway employees came to the coach when the train stopped at Burdwan at 12.27am but left saying that the “AC was working properly”. “We have to bear with this for the rest of the journey. The heat is intolerable,” he added.

The train entered Burdwan at 12.27am and left the station at 12.31am, he said.

An Eastern Railway official said: “Had the passengers not pulled the chain, the train would have reached Burdwan quicker and the problem could have been fixed.”

Train death

A 53-year-old woman died in a Calcutta-bound train from Ajmer that passed through boiling pots like Jharkhand and Burdwan today.

Anwari Begum’s husband Shail Ahmed said she started feeling ill after the Ajmer-Kolkata Express entered Asansol. “She could not drink water because the water from the train tap was very hot. When the train stopped at Burdwan station, I brought some water from the platform. She died after some time.” The couple were travelling in a sleeper coach.

Asked if Anwari died because of the heat, railway doctor P.K. Mondal said: “Nothing can be said before a post-mortem is conducted.”