July 31: Passengers of at least 45 long-distance and passenger trains, including the Howrah-bound Rajdhani Express, got stuck for several hours at different stations in Asansol and Kharagpur because of a crippling power outage in the state.
The Asansol-Durgapur industrial belt was also affected by the power cuts. Production was affected at all units except for the Durgapur Steel Plant, which drew power from its captive plant.
Most passengers, including several bound for Calcutta, got off trains and took buses and hired cars to reach their destinations.
Aparna Prasad, a passenger on the Howrah-bound Rajdhani that was stuck at Kulti station, near Asansol, from 1pm to 5.50pm, said: “As it is, the train left Delhi five hours behind schedule because of the power outage there. We had to wait for another five hours in Bengal. Although the air-conditioning was on and there was no scarcity of food and water, it is so boring to sit inside the compartment.”
Prasad was visiting a relative’s house in Calcutta.
A diesel engine that was sent to Asansol, under Eastern Railway, from Kulti pulled the Rajdhani to Howrah.
Renu Rana, 45, and her 14-year-old daughter Anishya, who too were in the Rajdhani, said they wanted to take a cab to Calcutta but could not get a car outside the station.
“Many passengers hired taxis from outside the station and left for their destinations. We too wanted to take one but no car was available. We have been sitting inside the train for a long time, this is irritating. We don’t even know when the train will start moving,” Renu said.
Software engineer Mohammad Ayush, 32, who was travelling on the Howra-bound Kalka Mail that got stranded for around three hours at Sitarampur station in Burdwan, said he killed his time surfing the Internet on his laptop and checking Facebook.
“I had to wait for the train at Tundla station (in Uttar Pradesh) for six hours because it was running late. Now it is stuck here because of a power grid failure. I am surfing the Net and chatting with friends on Facebook, but how long can I continue this?” said Ayush, who was visiting Calcutta on official work.
Army jawan Rajesh Mandal, who was on the same train, got off and took a hired car to his Durgapur home. “I waited for two hours and decided to take a cab. It’s better than sitting in the train,” he said.
A diesel engine was brought from Asansol and the train left for Howrah at 3.50pm.
The Calcutta-bound Jammu Tawi Express left Asansol at 5.40pm after a four-and-a-half-hour wait till power was restored partially to the overhead cable.
“We are unable to run trains by electric loco engines as we are getting only 15 per cent of our power requirement. We are trying to run the stranded trains with diesel engines,” said J.N. Jha, the divisional railway manager of Asansol.
In South Eastern Railway’s Kharagpur division, 35 trains, including at least 10 long-distance ones, were affected.
The trains that got stranded include the Bhubaneswar-New Delhi Rajdhani Express, New Delhi-Bhubaneswar Duronto Express, Yeshwantpur-Howrah Duronto Express, Howrah-Mumbai Gitanjali Express and the Chennai-bound Coromandel Express.
Passengers panicked when the New Delhi-Bhubaneswar Duronto Express stopped inside the dense Duki forest in West Midnapore around 1pm because it was once a Maoist hotbed.
“I travel frequently on this route. I know how Maoists used to stop trains here by placing improvised explosive devices or red flags on the tracks. We got to know from the driver that the train was stopped because of power failure,” said Krishna Reddy, 27, a resident of Ichhapara in Andhra Pradesh who works in an insurance company in Gurgaon.
The train left for Kharagpur at 4.50pm after power supply was restored to the overhead lines. It reached Kharagpur after about an hour.
Another passenger, Nitish Kumar, a 22-year-old BTech final-year student from Delhi, said the train had started five hours late from Delhi yesterday because of the northern grid failure.
“The train started from Delhi at 4pm. We were stuck at a signal near Dhanbad for half an hour. Now we are stranded again. I don’t know when the train will reach Bhubaneswar,” said Kumar.
The Jaswantpur-Howrah Duronto Express stopped at Bakrabad station near Belda town for a few hours.