Interview with DRM/Waltair post cyclone Hudhud hit Waltair Division

Loss to East Coast Railway Almost Rs 80 Crore, Says DRM/Waltair Mr.Anil Kumar

DRM Waltair Mr.Anil Kumar
DRM Waltair Mr.Anil Kumar

विसाखपटनम Visakhapatnam (VSKP): Managing railways is tricky, particularly after a cyclone of the nature of Hudhud ripped apart the infrastructure, rolling stock and the tracks. Though the Waltair Division of the East Coast Railway has recovered from the impact of the cyclone, it is yet to become fully operational. Lack of enough power to overhead power traction is posing a new problem. In a free-wheeling chat with R Prithvi Raj, Waltair Divisional Railway Manager Anil Kumar explains the challenges he had to face (Excerpts – Courtesy: Indian Express)

What is the situation now?

We have recovered considerably. The railway staff rose to the occasion. Things are falling in place though in some areas, a lot needs to be done. The cyclone has damaged not only railway tracks and overhead electric traction, but also passenger amenities at railway stations and staff quarters.

What was your first priority after the cyclone struck?

Our first priority was to clear obstructions on the railway tracks. Our Divisional Engineer rushed at 10 p.m. Sunday, the day the cyclone hit us, with tree cutters and overhead traction repair staff. By 2 p.m. the next day all obstructions were cleared and electric traction was repaired, ready to receive power. By 7 p.m. we ran the first train between Visakhapatnam and Vizianagaram. For us, this is a record.

Now that passenger trains have been restored, what is your next area of importance?

We are concentrating on operation of goods trains. Though overhead traction is back to normal, the APTransco is not in a position to supply adqeuate power. In our division, we draw power at seven stations. For each station, we need 50 MW. But AP Transco is able to supply only five MW. So we are giving priority to passenger trains and as a result, goods train services are being hit.

Why are you not using diesel locomotives for hauling goods trains?

Though we have enough number of electric locomotives, we are not able to use them fully because there is not enough power. Now we have to run our goods trains with diesel locomotives but we have very few of them. We have requisitioned diesel locomotives from other railways. In fact, we have some but not enough because other railways are not able to spare as they need them for their regular operations. As we have a diesel locomotive shed here which has a capacity of 212 locomotives, we have at present some diesel locomotives but they are not enough.

How is power shortage affecting your goods train movement?

Take for instance, the Kothavalasa-Kirandul line. For running one rake, we have to use three electric locomotives because the line runs on a very high gradient. But APTranco is giving me only 5 MW per station. That is not enough for me to run passenger as well as freight trains. We used to load 40-45 rakes every day before the cyclone. We are not able to load even 24 now.

In fact, immediately after the cyclone, the rake loading ranged between 12 and 10. In KK line, we used to load up to 24 rakes per day but now it has come down to 12 as we have to use a detour to move the goods and use diesel locomotives which are less in number.

What was the extent of damage to Railways in the entire division?

Property damage works out to about Rs 80 crore and loss of revenue about Rs 350 crore. As we are not able to run full complement of goods trains, we are losing revenue heavily. We have suffered damage to four of our important assets. They are: Electro Locomotive, Diesel Locomotive, Coach and Wagon Maintenance facilities. The cyclone had hit them with brutal force with the result that the facilities have been damaged The roofs were blown away and the equipment too was damaged.