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Trains laze in heavy haze
- Railways unleash measures to buffer winter rush, avert accidents on foggy routes

Children in Bokaro head for school on a foggy Thursday morning and (top) New Delhi station is a picture of haze and hassles on Wednesday. Pictures by Pankaj Singh and AP

Dense fog, enveloping northern parts of the country, has thrown into disarray schedules of nearly a dozen Delhi-bound trains from Jharkhand, including the Rajdhani twins via Bokaro and Daltonganj, for two consecutive days.

To beat the haze, Indian Railways have adopted a slew of measures from cancelling and rescheduling trains to adding extra coaches and bringing down speed caps on blinding stretches.

While the Swarnajayanti Express via Barkakana has been cancelled for two months from December 28, the Northern Railway is mulling revised schedule for a few other trains that are running four to seven hours behind schedule.

Passenger capacity is being augmented in the two pairs of Rajdhani that either originate from or terminate in Ranchi. Currently, each of the four trains (12439/40 via Bokaro and 12453/54 via Daltonganj) has a single AC first class compartment, four AC two-tier coaches and seven AC three-tier coaches. From December 20, one extra AC 2 and another AC 3 will be added to each.

Divisional railway manager (DRM), Ranchi, G. Mallya said the arrangement, made to buffer the winter rush worsened by train cancellations, would continue till January 19.

Mallya also confirmed that the Swarnajayanti Express would not run till March. “The train has been cancelled for a prolonged period owing to heavy fog in western Uttar Pradesh. It was getting delayed near Tundla station, leaving little time for maintenance,” he said.

An express requires seven to eight hours for maintenance before the next ferry. In case of Swarnajayanti, fog was delaying its departure from Anand Vihar terminal in Delhi. It was arriving almost half a day late in Ranchi, posing difficulties for rescheduling its departure from the state capital.

The DRM added that trains such as Garib Rath Express, the Swarnajayanti Express via Gomoh and Hatia-Pathankot might be rescheduled. “New timings and cancellations, if any, will be informed to passengers through the media.”

Trains passing through CIC Section of Dhanbad division of East Central Railway are running over 12 hours late because of a special speed limit imposed to avert accidents. Instead of 90-110kmph, most trains are covering foggy stretches at 65kmph. Crackers are being used to signal drivers.

Senior divisional operating manager Ved Prakash confirmed that the Howrah-New Delhi Rajdhani Express (12302) was the biggest casualty. “The train was running 12 hours behind schedule yesterday (Wednesday) and reached Dhanbad today (Thursday) around noon instead of 6am,” he said, adding speed restrictions were in place from Koderma onwards.

In Chakradharpur division of South Eastern Railway, the Bhubaneswar-New Delhi Rajdhani is running over four hours behind schedule.

The New Delhi-Puri Neelanchal Express, New Delhi-Bhubaneswar Sampark Kranti Express and Puri-bound Purushottam Superfast Express are lazing by two to six hours.

Tatanagar station manager Awtar Singh said necessary steps were being taken to ease passenger worries and facilitate ticket refund.

Long-distance buses to and from Bihar, Bengal and Odisha and destinations in the state like Hazaribagh and Koderma are also running late by two hours or more.

Weathermen at Sonari aerodrome recorded a visibility of 800 metres at 6am on Thursday. The blanket of fog that descended on Jamshedpur soon after sunrise cleared only after 8.15am. By 10am, visibility became almost normal at 3,000 metres. Neighbouring Adityapur and Chaibasa saw a further reduced visibility of 700 metres around 6.30am.

“Such heavy fog is caused by ample moisture in the atmosphere and the effect of solar radiation on it. Expect shallow fog in Jharkhand tomorrow (Friday), but there will be no let-up in conditions in north India,” explained T.N. Jha of Patna Meteorological Centre.

Has the fog scuttled your travel plans this week?