Lumding: The Silchar-Lumding broad-gauge railway route has been caught in a mesh of uncertainty as loopholes have been found in a few tunnels and bridges following incessant rain for the past few days.
Chief bridge engineer Alok Kumar Verma said in a report Lumding Divisional Railway <anager: “Operation of passenger services between New Haflong and Ditokcherra stations should be suspended with immediate effect on account of distress in the bridges, tunnels and cuttings.”?
The report about the sorry state of the bridges and tunnels within five months since the first broad-gauge passenger train service was run along the route has raised many eyebrows.
In his report, Verma mentioned that operation of freight trains can continue at a maximum speed of 20kmph, provided the train clears the section – New Haflong and Ditokcherra stations – during the day. He said speed restriction should be 10kmph in 10 “vulnerable” spots.
The report also suggested that all slope stabilisation work carried out by the construction company in the section be stopped immediately till it provides a protection scheme that takes into account all necessary geotechnical and geological parameters. “At all bridges, the tunnel muck dumped on the stream bed during the construction of line and all sausage crates, except at the toe of earthwork at the abutments, shall be removed,” the report added.
Following the submission of the report last night, the movement of passenger trains between Lumding and Silchar was temporarily suspended today to check safety of assets.
The 55616 Silchar-Guwahati BG special passenger, which was scheduled to start at 5am, chugged out of Silchar railway station at 1pm, while Silchar-Sealdah Kanchanjunga Express, scheduled to depart at 9.45am, started from here at 1.15pm today.
The report of the commissioner of railway safety (CRS), Sudarshan Naik, which was submitted on July 9 last year to the Railway Board, had also raised similar apprehensions about the safety of the diversion section along the route.
Chief public relations officer Pranav Jyoti Sharma today said a team of engineers of NF Railway left for the site by a special train from Guwahati last night to assess the situation.
“The team carried out detailed inspection of the track, bridges, tunnels and formation at the New Halflong-Ditockcherra section. After satisfying themselves of the safety of the section for movement of passenger traffic, normal running of trains was resumed with effect from 1pm today,” he added.
On reasons behind the delay of train services today, he said, “Owing to its geological formation and geographical conditions, the Lumding-Silchar section has been traditionally very vulnerable to landslide and other distress during the rainy season. Even during metre-gauge days, rail traffic used to get disrupted during monsoon. After gauge conversion, however, ample measures have been taken by using better technology to ensure smooth movement of traffic,” he said.
On security concerns and speed limit along the route, Sharma said sectional speed had been enhanced from 50kmph to 70kmph in certain sections and 70kmph to 90kmph in others. “Watchmen have been posted at vulnerable locations for continuous monitoring of track conditions. It is the result of constant technical inputs that passenger traffic was resumed even when Barak Valley remains cut off by road from the rest of the country,” he added.
Ajoy Roy, convener of Silchar-Lumding Broad-gauge Rupayan Sangram Committee, which spearheaded a movement for the early completion of the project, today expressed concern over the security issues raised by the report.
“We had informed NF Railway authorities on numerous occasions about the low quality work that was done during the construction. The bridge engineer’s report has proved our earlier apprehensions right. We demand a high-level inquiry into the construction of the project,” Roy told.