The much-hyped Rs 3.25-crore project to overhaul the route-relay interlocking system at Howrah station has left the railway authorities red-faced, as it has failed to smoothen out services since its installation in September.
Although the authorities claimed that there is “no fault in the new system”, it collapsed on Saturday night for almost an hour, forcing officials to admit that there are snags, indeed.
“The newly-installed device developed a snag. The signals at the station were not working for about an hour last night,” admitted an Eastern Railway (ER) spokesperson on Sunday. He said the signalling system collapsed between 11.03 pm and 11.58 pm on Saturday. Several long-distance trains were stranded at Howrah as a result. The Himgiri Express left 80 minutes late, while the Jodhpur Express was delayed by 70 minutes.
The Howrah-Mumbai Mail via Allahabad left the station but was stranded for 20 minutes soon after it rolled out of the platform, before it could be moved out by manual signalling. A number of local trains were also deferred.
The snag left senior ER officials on the defensive. “There is no need to disclose the technical details,” snapped S.R. Thakur, ER chief operations manager, when asked by Metro what led to the failure. “Trains were rescheduled. We are not bound to explain to everyone (about the system failure),” he said.
Daily passengers alleged that during the changeover to the new system in September, the railway had announced that trains will be irregular for three days because of “teething problems”. But the three days extended to a week. “Unofficially, however, trains are irregular even today,” complained Arindam Kundu, of Rishra.
“Trains are stranded for longer durations and more frequently between the Howrah carshed and the platform. In spite of our queries, officials do not tell us anything,” alleged Joydeep Majumdar of Chinsurah, who travels every day to Howrah to attend computer classes.
Others alleged that trains just don’t go by the schedule any longer. “The arrival of local trains does not match the official time-table,” said Jayanta Sen, a passenger from Uttarpara.
Railway officials, however, refused to attribute the passengers’ complaints to the route-relay failure. “Trains may get stuck for various factors. It is not right to blame the new system for everything,” an official said.
But, with complaints of malfunctioning pouring in, Trinamul Congress parliamentarian Sudip Bandopadhyay has decided to take up the matter with the railway ministry. “I have no idea where the problem lies. I will ask minister Nitish Kumar,” he said.