Movement of trains on the Howrah division will remain unpredictable for about a week from Monday after the new Rs 3.5-crore route relay interlocking (RRI) system developed “point failure” in less than 30 hours of its commissioning on Sunday.
Having failed to tackle the problem that started after 10 am on Monday, the railway authorities were forced to announce a special diversion service of some local trains from Burdwan to Sealdah (instead of Howrah) from Tuesday till Saturday. The authorities had earlier assured that excepting some “teething trouble”, services would be back to normal from Monday.
Office-goers bore the brunt of the dislocation on Monday as the movement of trains to and from Howrah was more erratic than on Sunday. All EMU locals entered Howrah more than two hours behind schedule after remaining stranded at different stations between Uttarpara and Liluah. Thousands of passengers walked three km from the car-shed along the rail tracks to reach Howrah station.
According to railway authorities, 30 pairs of local trains had to be cancelled and almost all long-distance trains, including Rajdhani Express, left Howrah station one to two hours behind schedule. Delhi-bound Rajdhani Express, slated to leave Howrah at 4.15 pm, started two hours behind schedule. The Howrah-bound Bagh Express had to be terminated at Mogra station, about 75 km from Calcutta. After more than five hours at Mogra station, passengers were ferried in another Howrah-bound mail train.
The rake of the Gwalior Express, whose scheduled departure time was 3.15 pm, could not enter Howrah till 5 pm. Malda Town Shatabdi and Patna Shatabdi arrived at Howrah more than three hours late.
Eastern Railway’s Howrah division runs 146 pairs of suburban trains on the Tarakeshwar and Burdwan routes (main and chord lines) everyday, and South Eastern Railway 68 pairs. Officials said the former was worse hit. A bulk of the 30 per cent cancellations was Eastern Railway trains.
Commuters had a rough time because of lack of co-ordination in the railway administration, particularly between the control room regulating the movements of trains and the RRI cabin. “We are not getting any response from the RRI cabin,” said a railway official in the Howrah control.
Passenger peeve peaked around noon. “The authorities should have made proper alternative arrangements,” shouted Pradip Chowdhury, who took three hours to get from Serampore to Howrah.
Neither general manager of Eastern Railway Sunil Sengupta nor chief operating manager S.R. Thakur was available for comment. Conversion of platform no. 1 into a double discharge platform by eliminating platform no. 2 from Monday had aggravated the situation.