Frequent suspension of trains cost Rs.5 Crores in 3 Years to Northern Railway’s Firozpur Divison

Train service remains off the track for 180 days since 2016

FIROZPUR (FZP): Frequent suspension of train services in Kashmir has made railways suffer losses worth Rs 5.35 crore during last three years of its operations in the Valley, various officials said.

Authorities often suspend the rail services on the 137-kilometer rail line between Banihal and Baramulla as a “precautionary measure” citing “law and order” as the reason.

Senior railway officials told that in 2017 and between January-April 2018, train services were suspended 45 times, causing railways to suffer losses amounting to Rs 1.35 crore.  Bulk of the total losses suffered during last 3 years worth Rs 4 crore was faced during four month long suspension between July 9, 2016 to November 11, 2016, the officials said. Prior to 2016 civil uprising, rail service was suspended 10 times during first six months of 2016.

“On an average, we have Rs 3 lakh earnings daily which means we have suffered almost Rs 5.35 crore losses since 2016 unrest,” said a railways official, who wishes anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to press.

As per railway officials, 15 pairs of train run regularly over the railway line from Banihal to Baramulla and carry almost 30,000 commuters including students and government employees, except one day in a week.

Hari Mohan, Chief Area Manager, said the railways has often urged the divisional administration that train cancellation “should not be the first line of call” while controlling the “law and order situation”. However, Mohan said the directions from both the railways headquarters and authorities in the Valley have been that “train service cannot be run on risk”.

“We had urged the Divisional Administration that security be enhanced on railway installations so that train cancellations should not be made first line of call. The prevailing situation in the valley, rather than making things positive has made them worse,” Mohan said.

The CAM said senior railway officials from outside valley have also sent across communications on several occasions that “rail services should be suspended incase of any security apprehensions”.

“But the onus to run train service finally lies on local administration. We sometimes receive grievances from commuters about the inconvenience they face due to cancellations but we tell them that we cannot  risk a passenger’s life and train assets which are at stake.

Another railway official wishing anonymity said running partial train service does not yield much benefits for the railways. “On days of partial suspension trains run almost empty. When the service runs end to end, we have more passengers commuting in the trains,” the officials said.

The train services was suspended in 2016 for 4 months after widespread protests raged across Kashmir in the wake of killing of Hizb commander Burhan Wani which led to several months long unrest. Officials say highest suspension of railway in 2017 was witnessed in August and October, when authorities asked railways to halt service 9 times during each of these months.This year train service has already been suspended 20 times between January and April.

Frequent suspensions of the train service are causing hardships to commuters. “I prefer to travel by train but the disruptions make it very inconvenient for me,” said Muhammad Altaf, a commuter. “While travelling in passenger cabs or buses takes more time due to jams, train service is more convenient for commuting long distances.” Another commuter wishing anonymity said the service being suspended even when a small   incident takes place.

“How can the authorities think of start running a luxurious sunroof-top AC Coach for tourists when it cannot ensure smooth operations of the regular trains. It is quite sad the way railway is stuck in a catch-22 situation,” he said.