‘Superfast’ is fast becoming a misnomer for Jamshedpur’s favourite Steel Express.
One of the most popular railway rides between Howrah and Tatanagar stations, the train is now routinely mocking the clock and inconveniencing passengers.
Its January record book shows arrivals 15 to 50 minutes behind schedule on as many as 25 out of 30 days.
While the superfast train is scheduled to reach Tatanagar at 9.25pm, records show it has chugged in between 9.45pm and 10.05pm on most days — the maximum delayed arrival being at 10.15pm.
A senior railway employee at the station manager’s office claimed that the train was mostly caught up in the Kharagpur division of South Eastern Railway (SER).
“The Chakradharpur division takes care of the train only after it enters Gidhni, where our jurisdiction begins. The train normally runs on schedule till Kharagpur, but gets delayed thereafter. The reason being increase in frequency of goods trains in that division. Also, the timing of the express clashes with that of several other long-distance trains like the Neelanchal, which travel on the same section,” he explained.
Sometimes the superfast train is made to halt for at least 10 minutes either at Salgajhuri or Asanboni for signal before it reaches Tatanagar, which leads to further delay.
Another railway official pointed out that platform No. 1 was earmarked for the Steel Express — both for arrival and departure. “But sometimes because of the late departure of the Tata-Chapra Express, which also leaves from the same platform and around the same time (9.35pm), the Steel Express is accommodated on platform No. 2 two. This results in delay,” he added.
Passengers are understandably unhappy with this train of operational affairs.
“The Steel Express never reaches Tatanagar on time these days. Travelling by road after 10pm is unsafe, particularly for women passengers who are bound for distant places like Telco, Adityapur, Baridih and Kadma,” said Sunil Verma, a resident of Vijaya Heritage in Kadma who often takes this train to Calcutta for business purposes.
Jayanti Ghosh, another frequent traveller who runs a local NGO, questioned the wisdom of giving the superfast tag to a train that wasn’t even punctual. “The railway authorities levy superfast charges, but passengers are a deprived lot,” she said.
Senior divisional commercial manager of Chakradharpur K.N. Biswas, who is also the spokesperson, echoed his junior colleagues and said the train ran late owing to operational reasons.
“Goods trains often increase traffic on the Kharagpur route. Sometimes the express train gets delayed because of platform allotment at Tatanagar. If main platforms are occupied, it has to wait at a nearby station,” he reiterated.
The senior railway official admitted that late arrival of the train inconvenienced passengers, but said they were helpless as of now.
The Chotanagpur Passenger Association raised the issue at railway meetings, but in vain. “This time, we will take up the matter with the SER general manager,” said S.P. Trivedi, an executive member.