Safety comes at a price. Railway passengers will pay for theirs later this month.
Several trains on the Howrah-Mumbai route via Tatanagar will either be cancelled or diverted between March 22 and 25 because of mandatory maintenance of tracks — known as mega block in railway parlance.
Sources at Garden Reach — the headquarters of South Eastern Railway (SER) in Calcutta — confirmed that movement of both passenger and goods trains would be largely affected. Officials at Tatanagar added that 10 pairs of passenger trains would be hit on the four days.
Rajendra Prasad, Tatanagar’s officiating station manager, listed the Howrah-Koraput Sambleshwari Express, Mumbai-Howrah Mail, Ahmedabad-Howrah Express, Howrah-Barbil Janshatabdi Express, Ranchi-Howrah Intercity Express, Howrah-Titlagarh Ispat Express, Howrah-Purulia Lalmati Express, Jnaneswari Superfast Deluxe Express, Howrah-Porbander Express and Hatia Howrah Express as the unlucky ones.
According to the tentative schedule prepared by Chakradharpur division, the Sambleshwari Express will remain cancelled between Kharagpur and Howrah on March 24, while the Mumbai-Howrah Mail will be scrapped on March 22 and 24.
The Howrah-Ahmedabad Express will be cancelled on March 22 between Ahmedabad and Howrah, while on March 24, the train won’t ply between Andul and Howrah.
The Jnaneswari Superfast Deluxe Express will run on a diverted route from Howrah on March 24 and the Howrah-Porbander Express will run from Howrah instead of Shalimar on March 23.
The Hatia-Howrah Express will run on a rescheduled time on March 22 and 23.
Railway officials said that the Howrah-Barbil Janshatabdi Express is also likely to remain cancelled for two days — on March 24 and 25 — for the mega block, but a final decision in this regard was yet to be taken. Officials said the same would be notified soon.
Incidentally, the block is scheduled at a time when trains witness a huge rush of passengers because of Holi, which will be celebrated on March 27 and 28 this year.
Businessmen and passengers in general are understandably sulking.
“Many of us from the city often travel to Howrah, Nagpur and other places that falls on the Mumbai route. Cancellation or diversion means business blues,” said Bharat Vasani, a local trader.
Kajal Sarkar, a frequent traveller to Howrah, said the mega block should have been postponed till after Holi. “People have made travel plans in advance for the festival. They will be greatly inconvenienced,” Sarkar said.
Railway officials pleaded helplessness. They said the mega block had been scheduled after around five years. “Safety and maintenance of tracks is a priority. We are taking measures to ensure that passengers do not face trouble while travelling on the route,” said a senior official of Chakradharpur division.
The Chotanagpur Passenger Association has, however, decided to approach the railway brass. “We will take up the issue with SER authorities. Maintenance of tracks is a must, but it can wait till the month-end. Passenger trains witness heavy rush before Holi. There will be chaos,” said a member.