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Travel plans went off the track

Railway passengers headed to Punjab suffered but there was no disruption of flights, report Avishek G Dastidar & Sidhartha Roy.

delhi Updated: May 26, 2009 23:55 IST

Kulvinder Kaur (60), a cancer patient from Udhampur in Jammu, could not find an inch to sit on in New Delhi Railway Station’s waiting room on Tuesday. It was overbooked.

Kaur, in Delhi for treatment, needed to lie down. She had been waiting for a train back home since morning.

Train services resumed to and from Punjab on Tuesday—24 hours after violence erupted on the streets there due to a religious controversy — but for thousands of stranded passengers at Delhi’s stations, the damage was already done.

“Our train to Udhampur was cancelled. I could not have gone anywhere outside the station,” Kaur said.”

The Shan-e-Punjab Express to Amritsar, the Amritsar Shatabdi, Pathankot Express and Bhatinda-Jammu Tawi —the four popular trains to Punjab departing from Delhi station in the morning — remained cancelled.

But people kept arriving at New Delhi Railway Station hoping for a train to Punjab.

Faced with the sudden surge in footfalls, the waiting rooms and public facilities were bursting at the seams.

“Here it was survival of the fittest, for drinking water, food, space to sit and everything. It was like a jungle,” said Captain (Retd) Gurmej Singh (70), who was on his way back from Madhya Pradesh to Ludhiana.

Even the resumed services in the afternoon brought with them a lot of chaos.

The Amritsar Shatabdi in the evening chugged in at the platform, half an hour before departure. But passengers did not know if it would be terminated short of Amritsar.

“The public announcements are barely discernible, and kept adding to confusion,” said Dalwinder Singh (37), who was waiting for a train to Amritsar along with his three children and wife since morning.

To clear the rush, a few trains were extended beyond their terminal stations, and coaches were added to others.

“We are trying to clear the rush as fast as possible by increasing capacity of several existing trains,” said a Northern Railway spokesman.

Flights unaffected

Flights from Delhi to cities in Punjab were not affected. Amritsar’s Raja Sansi International Airport, the only civil airport in the state, was functioning smoothly.

“There was no problem in the airport area and all flight operations were normal,” said an Airports Authority of India spokesman.

The Delhi-Lahore bus service too resumed services from Tuesday, albeit after its route was changed.

First Published: May 26, 2009 23:53 IST