Jan Shatabdi pulls away even as hundreds wait to board

Commotion reigned on platform four of Ernakulam Junction railway station on Sunday evening as the Thiruvananthapuram-bound Jan Shatabdi Express pulled away even as hundreds of passengers were waiting to board it.

Southern Railway has not increased the stoppage time for Jan Shatabdi (via Alappuzha) at the station, despite such incidents occurring during festive season, holidays and weekends.

On Sunday, passengers pulled the chain repeatedly and entered into a heated argument with the train’s guard and RPF personnel, on Sunday. The turmoil resulted in the train leaving the station over half an hour late.

A similar incident involving the Kozhikode-bound Jan Shatabdi (via Alappuzha) occurred in January, following which numerous passengers fell on the platform and suffered bruises. Passengers had gone on record then that many women and the elderly could have been caught in between the moving train and the platform but for others telling them to stop chasing the train.

Though the Railway traffic department is duty bound to increase the stoppage time of trains at stations in keeping with the rush of passengers, it has not done so despite a good share of passengers from Kozhikode disembarking at Ernakulam Junction and a similar number boarding the train from the station.

On Sunday, passengers entered into a heated argument with the train’s guard since he reportedly signalled the train to move. A few passengers ran behind the train that picked up pace.

“The train arrived here about 10 minutes late. Over 95 per cent of passengers from my coach got down at the station and there were hardly five people left in their seats. I was among the few who entered the coach and the train left even as dozens of people were standing in the queue to enter,” said a passenger who was travelling with her nephew.

Another passenger said such incidents could prove fatal for passengers and called upon the Railway to ensure their safety.

“The train picked speed just as four or five people entered my coach. About 100 others were waiting to enter, forcing people to pull the chain and stop the train,” said Francis J. Emmatty, assistant professor at an engineering college.

Despite such frequent incidents, the agency has not done anything to increase the stoppage time here or to direct passengers to enter and exit through different doors. The three-by-three seating and extremely-narrow doors make moving in and out of coaches extremely difficult and time consuming.

An RPF official said passengers had not given any written complaint following Sunday’s incident. “It would be ideal if the doors are wider or if there is a door at the centre like in short-distance trains,” he said.

The Ernakulam Area Manager of Southern Railway P.L. Asok Kumar attributed the heavy rush of passengers on Easter day for the incident. “The train stops here for around five minutes since it has to reach Thiruvananthapuram in a little over three hours. On most days, passengers board the train for three or four minutes and the train leaves soon after.”

To a question on the steps that the Railway would take to ensure that passengers safely boarded the train, a senior Railway official said the train’s guard and loco pilot could be given instructions to stop here till all passengers boarded their respective coaches.