Patna train runs on fear

Loss of Rs 16000 a day to keep land encroachers at bay

By Amit Bhelari in Patna
  • Published 23.04.16
The train that runs between the R-Block railway station and Digha

Patna, April 22: Railways is running a loss-making local train in Patna only because of fear that stopping it would lead to encroachment of 71.2533acres of land the track has been laid on.

The train between R-Block railway station and Digha passes through the busy Hartali Mor five times a day at peak hours, triggering traffic jams and leaving commuters stranded.

It runs despite loss of Rs 16,000 per day spent on diesel - it needs around 300 litres of diesel every day. It earns Rs 200 to Rs 250 per day.

"We are aware of the loss," a senior east central railway official told The Telegraph on condition of anonymity. "Railways is running the train due to fear that land may get encroached if the train service is discontinued. The railways ministry has directed us to run this train every day."

The train's eight coaches have dwindled to four but the takers for the Rs 5 a ticket ride has not changed. When it passes, you can easily count the heads of passengers sitting inside. After the train makes its last run at 5:30pm, the tracks are taken over by vegetable vendors, milkmen and other hawkers to do their business. And through the day,

The economically unviable train leaves Digha Ghat at 11:30am and passes through five stations - Rajiv Nagar, Shivpuri, Punaichak, Bailey Road and Secretariat - before reaching R Block at 12.06pm, clocking a maximum speed of 20kmph. Its return journey is scheduled an hour later. Each

time the train plies, hundreds of motorists remain stranded helplessly in front of ropes that serve as makeshift level crossings at Hartali Mor.

The track was laid by the British rulers in 1862 and it was not functional for many years before 2004 when the then railways minister Lalu Prasad revived the train service for the common people.

The state plans to make a six-lane road using the land the track runs on to provide seamless connectivity between north and south Patna. Sources in the east central railway (ECR) revealed that talks with the state government for transfer of land were not progressing at the desired pace.

The state government had agreed on transfer of land in exchange of other land to railways for other ongoing projects in the state. However, the railways was insisting that such exchange was only possible on basis of land having equitable value or complete payment at market value.

The state government later communicated to the railways that the land cannot be categorised as commercial land. The railways then gave the government the option to take the land only after full payment of Rs 896.29 crore.

"The land cost more than Rs 896 crore and railways cannot afford to lose it at any cost and we also know that once the land would be encroached it would be impossible for the railways to get it back. So, the railway board has instructed ECR to run the train on regular basis," said the railways official.

The state government slammed railways for not transferring the land.

"I will take up the issue with the railways minister Suresh Prabhuji next month when I will be meeting him in New Delhi," said deputy chief minister Tejaswi. "I will request him to transfer the land for the construction of six-lane expressway which would be boon for the people of Patna as the train service is not viable."