The Indian Railways is finding it almost impossible to stick to its tight train schedules, thanks to the fog. The last time it faced such an unrelenting spell of fog was in 1998. This year, trains have been delayed by more than 15 hours, leaving thousands of passengers stranded at the railway stations.
“Because of the unrelenting spell of fog since January 1, 40-50 mail and express trains are being cancelled every day and some 400 trains have been delayed by four to fifteen hours,” Railway Board member Vivek Sahai said.
Cancellation for one passenger train accounts for a revenue loss of approximately Rs 2 crore for the Railways. So far, the fog has caused the railways a loss of around Rs 30 crore in this month.
“These are unusual circumstances. The 1998 fog was bad, but this year’s fog is worse than that of 2003 when it would clear up after a gap of about four days,” said Sahai, who recently took charge in the Railway Board as Member (Traffic).
“Passenger services have gone for a toss, but the Railways is attempting to cope with the situation,” Sahai said, adding, “Additional counters providing information on delayed/cancelled trains have been put up at railway stations and special inquiry services (dial 139) have also been activated”.
Counters have also been set up to refund money on cancelled tickets, he said at a press conference.
Aiming to prevent further accidents, instructions have been issued to bring down the speed of all passenger and mail trains. “Our main priority is to ensure the safety of passengers,” Sahai said.
“The Railways is also looking at installing Anti-Collision Devices (ACDs) and a review on the subject was undertaken two days back,” he said.
The Train Protection Warning System (TPWS) is also being experimented with, he added.
Responding to suggestions of experts that considering the current fog conditions, the Railways should shift its signaling system from “automatic block system” to the “absolute block system,” Sahai said the procedures for implementing the suggestion were being examined.
Though the Railways seems to be doing its best, there was complete chaos at the New Delhi Railway Station on Friday. Out of six, only two enquiry windows were operating and had long queues in front of them. No proper indication or direction signages had been put up adding to the confusion.
Priya Shukla, 19, an engineering student complained, “I called up the toll free enquiry number (139) and was informed that my train Kashivishwanath Express was on time. I have been waiting here since 11 am. The train has been rescheduled to 5 pm in the evening.”
D.B. Mohanti, 64, a technical advisor traveling by Sampark Kranti said, “My train was scheduled at 7 in the morning. Now it has been rescheduled to 7:30 in the evening. There is no further information.”
Saurabh Arora (29), an accountant by profession was agitated because of the wrong information that he had been provided by the enquiry. He said, “When I inquired about an hour ago from the enquiry they had no information. I have been sitting on the platform totally clueless for hours.”