Ajmer special train exposes railways’ lack of preparedness

NAGPUR: Lack of preparedness by Central Railway deprived many pilgrims from using Nagpur-Ajmer special train on Thursday. The train, which was to operate to clear rush of devotees attending 801st annual urs at Ajmer, was announced only on Wednesday evening and people learnt of it through media on Thursday morning.

Not just that, the 20-coach train (1401) was to leave Nagpur at 8.45am on Thursday and reach Ajmer at 7.40am on Friday. However, CR failed to get the rake to Nagpur on time. The empty rake arranged from Mumbai reached Nagpur by 1.45pm causing grave inconvenience to the few passengers who had reached the station at 8am to catch the train.

As the Ajmer special train was not publicized, not many knew about it. The railways lost huge money in operating the train as only 105 passengers travelled in it. This is less than 10% of the total seats available. The break-up included 71 passengers in second class, 15 in ACIII, 19 in general sleeper coaches. Not a single passenger travelled in ACII coach.

“Ajmer special is a classic case of how public money is wasted by railways. Revenue was lost not just in operating Ajmer train. Bringing an empty rake from Mumbai during the peak summer season when demand is high is also not wise,” RTI activist Avinash Prabhune said pointing out that with a little bit of planning railways could have earned revenue while bringing the rake to Nagpur and also provided succour to passengers.

“If the railways did not have a rake why did they announce the train? If publicity had been done about it, many would have planned their journey,” said passenger Mushtaq Ahmed.

“The time was too short for the people to decide about the journey. Thousands of devotees from the city visit Ajmer every year. Announcement should have been made at least a week in advance,” felt Basant Shukla, general secretary of Bharatiya Yatri Kendra (BYK), whose office-bearers flagged off the train at 2pm, after a delay of six hours.

Some of the passengers who had turned up in the morning to catch the train returned home. Some somehow clambered aboard Chennai-New Delhi Tamil Nadu and GT Express hoping to catch other trains from Bhopal. Some waited for the rake to arrive.

Prabhune said at official hauling cost of Rs840 per km for a passenger train, railways suffered a loss of Rs7 lakh by bringing an empty rake from Mumbai. Central Railway PRO P D Patil said earlier the train was to come from Ajmer and same was to return. However, owing to technical reasons that train did not arrive. “We had informed the passengers at station about the delay. A special booth was also set up to guide passengers. Railways’ efforts to arrange a rake at short notice should be appreciated,” he said.

Prabhune said instead of increasing fares, railways should improve efficiency and cut wastage.

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