Tourists returning home from Santiniketan had to struggle in overcrowded local trains with their rucksacks and trolley bags as a number of long-distance trains were cancelled or delayed by several hours following Tuesday’s derailment in Burdwan.
The disruption continued as the tracks damaged by the derailment had not been repaired by Wednesday evening. Local trains were few and erratic on the Burdwan-Howrah main line, inconveniencing people across several districts.
Holidaymakers returning from Santiniketan’s famed Poush Mela perhaps bore the brunt as many of them were travelling with families and carrying heavy luggage. Those who could not manage to push their way in with their bags even after waiting for hours at Bolpur and Prantik stations had to pay through their nose for a road trip to Calcutta.
“I had planned to board the Malda-Howrah Intercity Express at Bolpur station at 8.20am. But when I reached the station with my wife and daughters at 7.45am, I found the train had been cancelled. I waited for two more hours but there were no express trains to Howrah or Sealdah. Finally, we boarded a passenger train to Burdwan, from where we took a bus to Esplanade,” said Snehashis Dutta, who works in a chartered accountancy firm on Shakespeare Sarani.
The Duttas, who had gone on a three-day vacation to Santiniketan on the occasion of Poush Mela, had planned to take a local train from Burdwan. “But there were no trains on the main line and those on the chord line were too crowded.”
The Duttas’ woes were shared by several others, who were found struggling to find space with their bags and jholas stuffed with ektara and dokra art showpieces bought at the mela. Many of them were carrying the items on their heads or shoulders.
“A kid puked on my shoes and I was hit on my head by a steel trunk. Had I known this was waiting, I would have stayed back a couple of more days,” said Susmita Dutt, a Jadavpur resident and a student of media studies at a Bangalore college.
Private commercial vehicles made most of the day, demanding three times the normal fare from hapless tourists. A trip from Bolpur to Calcutta generally ranges between Rs 2,800 and Rs 3,000. On Wednesday, some had to cough up as much as Rs 10,000.
“I had to pay Rs 7,000 for a 120km trip till Serampore, which otherwise takes hardly Rs 2,000. I was travelling with my ailing mother and so had no option but to give in to the demand,” said Ashis Mukherjee, who runs a fishery business.
Eleven long-distance trains were cancelled and several others were diverted via Dankuni — causing a delay of at least two hours on an average — on Wednesday, a day after 15 coal-laden bogies of a goods train derailed between Debipur and Boinchi in Burdwan.
Among the city-bound trains, the Malda-Howrah Intercity Express and the Azimgunj-Howrah Kaviguru Express were cancelled. The Down Santiniketan Express, Bolpur-Howrah Kaviguru Express and the Rampurhat-Howrah Maa Tara Express were among those that were routed via Dankuni.
Several trains from Howrah, too, were affected. The Kalka Mail, Black Diamond Express and the Howrah-Suri Hool Express were cancelled.
“Till 6pm, 12 out of 15 derailed wagons could be lifted. Train service on the Up line may be resumed by late tonight. The Down line is likely to be clear by early tomorrow,” said a railway spokesperson.
“The Up line was restored around 10am today. But while a wagon was being removed, an overhead wire got snapped. The whole process got delayed again,” said an official.