Darjeeling Mail horror run - Train reaches sealdah 11 hours late

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  • Published 12.03.08

March 11: A combination of factors delayed the Calcutta-bound Darjeeling Mail by more than 11 hours today, forcing passengers to spend a whole night and most of the day on board the train.

Many of them also missed their flights out of the city.

The train had left New Jalpaiguri station at 8.15 last night — 15 minutes behind schedule — and reached Sealdah at 5.05pm today. The scheduled arrival of the 2344DN Darjeeling Mail is 6am.

The train first encountered trouble when there was an engine failure at Nijbari, 15km from New Jalpaiguri, according to initial reports from the Northeast Frontier (NFR)’s divisional headquarters at Katihar. An engine used to haul goods trains arrived after an hour and the train started moving at reduced speed.

The second obstacle was a crack detected on the track between Dalkhola and Telta in North Dinajpur district. The train was detained at Aluabari — 55km from Nijbari — for four-and-a-half hours. After the track was repaired, the train left Aluabari station at 5.30am and stopped at Barsoi where it was connected to a passenger train engine. It was 6.30am when the train left Barsoi.

But the passengers’ ordeal did not end there. The new engine broke down between Kumarganj and Eklakhi stations.

When the train finally reached Malda at 9am, the passengers demonstrated at the office of the station manager.

Among the passengers was Deepa Das Munshi, the Congress MLA from Goalpokhar. Munshi got off the train at Malda and took a car to Bagdogra, from where she caught a flight to Calcutta in the afternoon

The railways said an inquiry would be conducted into the delay. T. Rava, the chief public relations officer of the NFR, said the crack on the track might have occurred because of changes in weather in the Himalayan foothills. On the breakdowns, he said such incidents were rare, but whenever they take place, the railways take necessary steps

After a harrowing experience of being cooped up in the train for so long with not enough food and water, most passengers breathed a sigh of relief upon reaching Sealdah and hurried to their homes or hotels to freshen up and eat.

Mumbai-based engineer Nikesh Mhatre and his wife Kavita said they would incur a loss of more than Rs 14,000 for having missed their flight.

Justice A.B. Mukherjee, who came to Calcutta from Siliguri for his wife’s medical treatment, said: “The harassment we suffered was great considering the loss of time and the lack of provisions for food and water on the train.” He added that the delay caused discomfort to his wife who was suffering from osteo-arthritis (a degenerative joint disease).’

Kalimpong businessman Tara Sundas alleged that the apathy of the train staff and the railway authorities compounded the problems of the passengers. “No one could provide any information as to why the train was running late and when we would reach Calcutta,” said Sundas.