The travel plans of about 800 passengers suffered a bodyblow when the Pune-Varanasi Holiday Special train was delayed by over 27 hours. The train, scheduled to leave the station at 10.45 am Thursday, finally left Pune station on Friday afternoon. The passengers, most of whom were supposed to catch a connecting train to Gorakhpur for Chhat Pooja, complained that the railway administration kept changing the departure time of the train, adding to their woes. Officials with the Pune Division of Indian Railway said the delay was because the incoming train, on its way from Jammutavi, was delayed by a whopping 36 hours.
The Jammutavi-Pune Holiday Special, scheduled to arrive at 9.15 pm on Wednesday, reached Pune at 9.20 am on Friday. Passengers who had tickets for the air-conditioned special train claimed that they were stuck in the station throughout the night, because railway authorities didn’t give them a clear picture of when the train would finally arrive.
Railway officials kept on changing the departure time of the train, creating more confusion, said the passengers. R N Gupta, who was travelling with his family, said, “The train was scheduled to leave at 10.45 am on Thursday. We received a message in the morning saying it has been delayed and will leave at 6.15 am the next day. Sensing that I may find it difficult to reach the station early in the morning, I reached the night before and waited for the train. I was then told that the departure time of the train has been changed to 10.45 am”.
“The train finally left at 2.15 pm on Friday. Had I known the train would be delayed that much, I would have spent the night at home, slept and then come to the station Friday afternoon.” he said.
Many passengers said the delay had “defeated the very purpose” of travel, as they were bound to miss the Chhat Pooja. “I was undertaking the journey for my wife, who is a Chhat Vrati — she fasts during the four-day festival — and she was going to attend Chhat Pooja. Now the train will reach Varanasi a day late. We will then have to take another train or bus to reach Gorakhpur. By the time I reach, it will be too late for the pooja,” said Vijay Gupta.
Gupta claimed that when he tried to meet Divisional Railway Manager B K Dadabhoy to convey his problems, he was stopped by Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel.
According to Harsha Shah of Railway Pravasi Group, some passengers who were “fed up of waiting for the train” tried to register their protest, but were dispersed by the policemen.
“It was natural for them to be irked. Waiting for a train for 27 hours is bound to irritate people, especially when they have young children to look after. The ideal thing for the Railways would have been to get a complete sense of the probable delay and inform the passengers about the final departure time. Shifting goalposts adds to the misery,” she said.
Krishnath Patil, senior divisional railway manager for Pune division, claimed that the delay had been caused by a combination of various factors which were beyond their control.
“The Pune-Jammutavi Holiday Special train got delayed, which led to the delay in the Jammutavi-Pune train. There are many reasons which may have caused the delay. Once the train reached Pune, we wasted no time and readied it for departure as quickly as possible,” said Patil.