Exhausted but relieved, numerous passengers of the Okha-Ernakulam express (train number 16377) arrived in the city here on Wednesday evening nearly 26 hours later than the scheduled arrival time.
The train, from Okha in Gujarat to Ernakulam in Kerala, started its trip at 2 a.m. on Monday and was expected to reach Mangalore at 1.30 p.m. on Tuesday. After a derailment of a goods train near Ratnagiri in Maharasthra, the train was diverted to Pune. However, from Pune, instead of being sent towards the scheduled route towards Goa, the train was sent towards Gulbarga, some 500km away.
As the train chugged in at 4.15 p.m. on Wednesday, passengers – especially those headed towards Ernakulam – found little solace in the station announcements asking vendors to “attend on priority the needs of passengers of the train”.
For them it was nearly three days with no information and very little facilities. “We suddenly found ourselves in Sholapur, and then for four hours near Gulbarga station, when we should have been closer to Mangalore… There was no ticket collector, no checker, no information given to us. We had to ask station managers to give us information,” said Bharat Kotian, who along with six of his colleagues from a factory in Jamnagar were headed home in Kuloor for the holidays. All of them missed the marriage they were supposed to attend.
At Gulbarga station, he said, many passengers took the refund and headed to Mangalore by bus. “We didn’t have the money and so we had to stay on,” said Mr. Kotian.
The train passed through Bijapur, Gadag, Hubli, before joining the Konkan track near Doodhsagar falls.
Swapnil W., from Surat who studies in a college in the city, said he missed a day of college because of the delay. “One boy travelling with us missed his examination he had to write in Goa,” he said. His friend, Atul Berry, said waiting in noon at Gulbarga was “the worst experience”, and soon, even the toilets ran out of water.
There was no sympathy from railway officials, said Pushparaj Shetty, a caterer in Baroda, who was going to visit his family in Padavinangady. “Food cost more than Rs. 60 per meal. Water was at Rs. 20. Why couldn’t they have at least lowered the rates to make it affordable?” he said.
While passengers who got off at Mangalore were relieved at the sight of Mangalore Junction, the others still harboured uncertainty over the remainder of the journey. S. Shekhar has missed his train from Shoranur Junction to Coimbatore. “They have assured me that they will put me on to some other train. But having seen all their other assurances fail, I can’t travel in peace now,” he said.
Due to the delayed schedule of the Ernakulam-Okha express (Train No.16338), Southern Railways has rescheduled the train to leave Earnakulam at 7.25 a.m. on Thursday, instead of 8.50 p.m. on Wednesday.