At the best of times, the weather is unpredictable. But not so much so that one could not predict that it will invariably cast a dampener every year over the season of good cheer. As winter tightens its icy grip on north India, we are met with the usual chaos of rail, road and air disruptions in the certain knowledge that next year will be no different. While the meteorological department claims that it gives out enough information on weather conditions and that others like the airlines do not disseminate this, it also acknowledges that it is still two years away from installing modern technologies like automatic aviation weather decision support systems which are in use in other international airports. It can be little comfort to those whose plans have been thrown out of whack that the funds of Rs. 150 crore for this technology are available but that the Met office is yet to find a supplier.
Technology aside, much of the sufferings of passengers could have been minimised had the authorities concerned, whether air or rail, ensured that information on delays and cancellations reached the consumer in time. But anyone who has tried to elicit information from either the railways or the various airlines will testify that it is akin to wringing blood out of a stone. If passengers are informed in time, surely they would not turn up bag and baggage only to wait, in some cases, over 30 hours only to go back home dejected. Those who have gone in for non-refundable fares and holiday packages will find themselves seriously out of pocket and those trying to reach their destinations for crucial functions like marriages or medical help cannot be blamed for venting their rage on the officials concerned. Technology is meant to make lives easier for people, so what stops the authorities from updating their websites or sending out SMSes in time for people to deal with delays and cancellations in a more comfortable manner?
Every year, we hear that fog lights will be put up on thoroughfares to prevent accidents, but we are yet to see a glimmer of these. Those who are traveling by air or rail with small children, are aged or have medical conditions like diabetes have nothing but hope to fall back on. It is not enough to digitise the railway system and construct tony terminals at airports. Each incremental step ought to be aimed at making travel that much easier. But all we have seen so far is the usual blame game. This is a gloomy forecast, but if this goes on we cannot expect that the foggy vision which has clouded all travel plans this year will lift by the next.