Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Indian Railways Successfully Tackled Train Operations During Phalin Cyclone Crisis

            The Indian Railways geared up its entire machinery in a big way in the most efficient and prompt way to ensure and manage  smooth and safe railway operations in the areas affected by the recent cyclonic storm ‘‘PHAILIN” which hit the east coast of the country.
 Minister of Railways, Shri Mallikarun Kharge and the Railway Board were always there to give suitable guidance and directions to the Railway administration for taking all precautionary measures to ensure safety and convenience of passengers.   The affected Railway Zones namely,  EAST COAST RAILWAY(HQ- BHUBNESWAR),  SOUTH CENTRAL RAILWAY(HQ-SECUNDERABAD), SOUTH EASTERN RAILWAY(HQ- KOLKATA) activated emergency control rooms at zone level as well as at division level to handle the challenge effectively, General Managers of these zones  personally monitored and supervised all arrangements.   The meticulous planning, emergency plan of action and constant review and monitoring of the developing situation were the hallmarks of these arrangements.  Crisis Management Groups were formed and all protocols of disaster management were implemented.   Regular flow of information to public, additional enquiry counters, additional refund counters, emergency medical facilities, facilities of food and water were among the steps taken for the convenience of the passengers. The Public Relations Departments of the affected zone worked almost round the clock to disseminate information through media which too was taken on board for this crisis. Information scrolls/tickers like – RAILWAYS GEARS UP TO FACE PHALIN –- NO RISK TAKEN WITH PASSENGER CARRYING TRAINS, SAY RAILWAY OFFICIALS, HENCE THE PRECAUTIONARY CANCELLATIONS –- SPECIAL TRAINS FOR STRANDED PASSENGERS –- ECOR, SER, SCR, ON HIGH ALERT  etc etc., were telecast throughout on TV channels- both regional and national- for the benefit of passengers. The cooperation of media was also praiseworthy.


The East Cost Railway Zone (ECOR) with its headquarters at Bhubaneshwar, Odisha was at the core of the crisis and was at facing the major burnt of the cyclone.  Therefore, this cyclone was a major challenge to this Zonal Railway which rose to the occasion and decided to meet the challenge with strong and resolute preparations and ground work. 

Taking advantage of the meteorological forecasts and also the experiences of devastation to Railway property in the super cyclone of 1999, the Railway story of NIL casualties and early restoration of train services can be attributed to planned approach to disaster management. 

·         No Risk To Passengers:
Having cancelled all passenger and express trains and having sanitized the route between Howrah and Visakhapatnam off all passenger rail traffic by noon of 12th October, Railways ensured that not a single passenger’s life was put to risk.  This also helped to concentrate on post-cyclone restoration efforts. 

·         Pre-Positioning Of Special Teams:
Special teams with officers and field staff with essential equipments had been pre-positioned at 25 identified locations anticipated to bear the burnt of the cyclone.  Tower cars and relief trains with a hundred plus generators, cables, signal equipments, debris-clearing equipments, etc. were positioned every five-six stations away.  Staff, well-equipped and personally taken care of, had been on sharp look-out at every station and within sections, for any danger to railway track, bridges and signals. 

·         Early Restoration:
Early morning after the cyclone, in spite of inclement weather, the pre-positioned teams started inspection and repair works at urgent speed.   By 02.00pm in the afternoon, the route between Puri and Howrah and North India was declared fit for running of Express trains.  The teams worked day-long and by night, the track between Khurda Road and Palasa leading to Visakhapatnam, had been made fit for running of trains with diesel engines.  The daunting task of removing hundreds of trees from Railway tracks and overhead equipments wires had been achieved.

·         Safety Of Train Operations:
To ensure safety and to prevent overturning or breaking away of trains due to high speed, all goods trains controlled in the affected section were secured properly with chains, handbrakes, etc. There was not a single incidence of such case despite very high wind speeds of 220kmph. Again, working the whole night, the overhead wires were slewn back to place and train operations with electric engines were back in place by 10.00a.m of 14.10.2013. 

·         Running Trains In Spite Of No Power Supply:
However, due to non-availability of power supply from the State Grid at 04 Railway Sub-stations in Balugaon-Brahmapur section caused due to razing of the HT towers of Odisha Power Transmission Corporation Ltd. (OPTCL), Railways had to extend the electric supply from other sub-stations at Kaipadar near Khordha in Odisha and Baruvva near Palasa in Andhra Pradesh to ensure normalcy in running of all South-bound and Mumbai-bound Express and Passenger Trains.

·         Vital Commodities Carried By Freight Trains:
To maintain coal supply to all South India Power Houses located in Andhra Pradesh and beyond where coal stocks had reached critical levels, many coal trains were diverted via Sambalpur-Vizianagaram route by diesel engine. Essential commodities like LPG, Diesel etc. were rushed to the major distribution centre at Khurda Road.

·         Crisis Management Group And Emergency Control:
Giving guidance to field officials in Khurda Road and Waltair Divisions were the Divisional Control Rooms at Khurda Road and Visakhapatnam.  The Divisional Controls were continuously monitored and given on-the-spot decision and spot approvals of crucial decisions by the Zonal Crisis Management Group (CMG) consisting of key heads of departments.  This CMG operated for more than 72 hours without a break, giving crucial inputs to field levels.

·         Vital Public & Media Inputs:
Public perceptions and demands were gauged quickly through field staff and media inputs by the PR team of Railways.  Special trains to Howrah, Mumbai and Chennai helped to clear thousands of stranded passengers at Puri, Bhubaneswar, Visakhapatnam and other Railway stations.  Extra coaches were attached to regular trains to ensure that last-minute passengers were accommodated.  In sum, the quick restoration of train services provided relief to a number of passengers and helped to instil confidence and trust in the Nation’s Lifeline.


·         South Eastern Railway was fully alert to the threat of Cyclone Phailin right from 11.10.13
·         Cyclone Management Emergency Cell was opened in the SER Headquarters and in Kharagpur Division which was manned round the clock by senior officers of all the concerned departments.
·         General Manager Shri G. C. Agarwal held regular meetings to take stock of the current situation and plan the next course of action. The meetings were attended by Addl General Manager Shri Prabhat Sahai, all the concerned Principal Head of the Departments and other officers.
·         Care was taken and meticulous planning of train running was done in such a manner that NO PASSENGER CARRYING TRAIN was there in the area when the cyclone hit the land.
·         Trains were resumed soon after the relief teams declared the route fit for train running.
·         Efforts were made to divert some of the South India bound trains via Bilaspur-Nagpur-Ballarsha-Kazipet instead of cancelling them.
·         There were Bhubaneswar bound passengers who had got down from different trains at Kharagpur due to diversions/cancellations on 12.10.13. The tickets of  passengers were endorsed and they were allowed to travel on other trains towards their destinations.
·         The passengers of New Delhi – Bhubaneswar Rajdhani Express were provided extra food as it had to be terminated short of destination at Balasore.
·         Efforts were made to normalise train running in the affected section as early as possible.


With a view to handle the situation arising out of the Phailin Cyclonic Storm hitting the East Coast, South Central Railway undertook concerted efforts to ensure safety and minimize dislocation to train services and avoid inconvenience to passengers to the extent possible within the given conditions. Some of the focused measures undertaken included:
·         Activated Emergency Control Rooms at Rail Nilayam, the Head Quarters of SCR and also at Vijayawada Divisional office. These emergencies were manned 24 X 7 by Senior Officials from various departments to closely monitor the situation and immediately initiate necessary action.
·         Special Patrolling of Railway Tracks were pressed into service on Vijayawada Division especially covering the entire section between Vijayawada and Duvvada near Visakhapatnam.
·         Special Engineering Trains carrying material including boulders, quarry dust etc., were kept ready at four locations on Vijayawada Division i.e. at Vijayawada, Bitragunta, Rajahmundry and Vatlur to undertake relief activity in case of need.
·         Senior Engineering Officials were stationed at Tuni to keep a watch on the situation continuously and take appropriate steps as required.
·         Supervisors were deputed to travel in locomotives of the trains running on Vijayawada-Visakhapatnam Section so as to keep watch alongside the Railway Tracks, particularly with regard to water level etc.
·         Watchmen were posted to monitor the situation at Identified vulnerable locations including bridges, high banks etc., in the interest of safety of track and other installations.
·         20 long distance express trains which were to run on Vijayawada-Visakhapatnam-Bhubneshwar were diverted to run on diverted route from Vijayawada via., Warangal, Ballarshah, Nagpur, Jharsuguda, Kharagpur etc., in view of the conditions prevailing in Odisha Coast.

·         With a view to help transport the stranded short distance passengers, two special Passenger Trains were run - one from Vijayawada to Anakapalle and one from Vijayawada to Samalkot.
·         Help Line Numbers were activated at 19 Railway Stations covering Vijayawada, Guntur and Secunderabad Divisions to ensure flow of information to passengers on train services. 
·         Additional Enquiry Counters and Refund Counters were opened at all important Stations to cater to the needs of the Passengers.
·         Required catering arrangements were made at various stations so as to ensure supply of drinking water, food & beverages to Passengers on travel, on account of diversion of trains.

(Release ID :100213)


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