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Don’t rely on railway helplines

In this fog season, if are relying on a helpline to know the status of your train, don’t expect to get the correct information.

delhi Updated: Jan 05, 2009 22:56 IST
Avishek G. Dastidar

In this fog season, if are relying on a helpline to know the status of your train, don’t expect to get the correct information.

If massive train delays due to fog are causing unending misery to passengers, what is proving to be even more painful is the unreliable helplines. After checking with helplines, passengers arrive at stations only to find that their trains have either been cancelled or rescheduled to depart late in the night. The result: clogged platforms.

On Monday, fog delayed over 50 trains, while 35 remained cancelled. Twenty-three trains were rescheduled. “We expect trains to be delayed but we need to have proper information on that. The helpline said our train, after being rescheduled, would depart from Nizamuddin at 5.50 p.m. We arrived at the station at 5 p.m., and found that was rescheduled for 10.30 p.m.,” said Anuradha Kaul, a resident of Noida waiting for the Bandra Terminus Garib Rath.

According to sources, too many authorities managing the helplines are the main problem. While Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) runs the centralised ‘139’ service, the job of actually updating information rests on the zonal railways, in Delhi’s case the Northern Railway.

“Whenever there is a time lag in the updated information, the blame is on zonal railways. We do not come in the picture as far as information is concerned,” said Harbhagwan Das, spokesman for IRCTC. The ‘139’ helplines is currently receiving around 1 lakh calls per day.

If ‘139’ is giving stale information, many passengers complained that another toll-free number, ‘1800-11-2511’ launched last year, was giving “friendly advice” instead of registering complaints.

“The public announcement system was erratic in giving information. I dialled the toll-free number to register a complaint. But the man on the other end told me me to ‘adjust’,” said Suresh Narayan, waiting for Shivganaga Express at the New Delhi Railway Station.

“Information is updated every 15 minutes in the system. So there is no question of any delay on our part,” said a senior Northern Railway spokesman.