Cyclone Phailin has left behind a trail of destruction in Odisha and, as a consequence, a train of delay in Jharkhand.
The Howrah-Hatia Express — the most popular means of railway communication between the Bengal and state capitals — is running eight hours late on an average for a fortnight because the severe storm and rain that battered India’s east coast during Durga Puja washed away tracks at Balugaon in the neighbouring state. And, South Eastern Railway (SER) authorities haven’t had a dry window since to repair the damage.
On October 15, two days after Phailin made landfall in coastal Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, the train was rescheduled to leave Howrah station at 5.45am instead of 10.15pm the day before. It, however, was delayed further and departed for Ranchi-Hatia at 8.15am, exactly 10 hours late. The train reached the state capital at 5.35pm instead of 7.05am; and Hatia at 6.05pm instead of 7.35am.
The trusted express has been slo-mo ever since.
Soumi Guha Haldar, a health professional who was on board since Dashami (October 14), recalled her nightmare. “It was one of the most horrible experiences of my life. My work involves a lot of travelling, but this was different because I was with my family. I saw families, including children, spending the night on the platform,” she said.
Software engineer Prakhar Sinha was among those who stayed put on the platform. “I had 10 pieces of luggage because I am travelling abroad after Diwali. I had no other option. I had already vacated the house I stayed in,” he said.
Now, the bad news is that there is little hope for early relief.
Arjun Majumdar, the assistant commercial manager of SER, said heavy rainfall activity was hampering repair work of tracks in Odisha.
“For the past two years and a half, the Howrah-Hatia Express is linked with the East Coast Express. After the train reaches Howrah from Hatia around 6.35am (normal time), it leaves for Hyderabad as East Coast Express at 11.45am. The same train leaves the Andhra capital the next day at 10am and reaches Howrah the day after around 4.10pm.
“Now, the East Coast Express route includes Balugaon, where tracks have been washed away. So, the train is taking a detour via Nagpur and reaching Howrah around six hours late on an average. Also, continuous rain has been reducing visibility. Railway engineers need at least six hours of maintenance time after a train reaches a station. Hence, the Hatia express bears the brunt,” Majumdar explained.
On when the Howrah-Hatia Express would be punctual again, the senior SER official refused commitment. “A dry spell of at least three consecutive days is necessary for track work at Balugaon. Nothing can be said before the skies clear in Odisha, which weathermen say won’t happen anytime soon,” he added.
Share your train delay ordeal with us at email@example.com