Prospects are not encouraging for those planning train journeys during the year-end.
In order to circumvent troubles of the foggy season, the Railways have cancelled 2771 trips (or trains) at the rate of 64 trains each day for a month-long period beginning on December 17. It has also been decided to reduce the frequency of 56 other trains each day for the same period.
Fog-related disruptions will impact major locations in North and Eastern India including New Delhi, Lucknow, Saharsa and Varanasi. “Mail and Express trains such as the Jan Sadharan, Lichivi and the Toofan Express are expected to come on the cancellation list, while the premier Rajdhani and Shatabdi will remain unaffected”, an official said. New Delhi-Howrah and the Patna-Amritsar routes have been identified as “most critical”.
While thermal imaging and radar guidance systems have enabled aircraft to land in foggy conditions, the Railways has been struggling with technology upgrade plans for decades.
“Indian locomotives are not equipped with “In-Cab” signalling systems – which alert loco pilots on the colors of the signals passing by during motion of the train. Running trains in foggy weather without the system amounts to risking passenger lives, while train cancellations mean loss of revenue for the transporter. The In-Cab signalling project has been pending for several years and must be rapidly implemented”, said JP Batra, former Chairman, Railway Board (CRB).
“The Research Design and Standards Organization (RDSO) has identified a company for joint development of the advanced signalling systems. Talks with an Israel-based firm for acquisition of thermal imaging systems are also being pursued”, said Professor N S Vyas, Chairman of the Technology Mission of Indian Railways (TMIR).
Fog disruptions last year had caused cancellations of as many as 6690 trains last year, while several accidents have been reported during the season in previous years.