DIBRUGARH, April 18 - After almost half a year after Union Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain made a loud announcement that Dibrugarh and Guwahati would be served by a full- fledged Shatabdi Express, nothing much has developed on the matter. Of course, the Shatabdi rake has arrived about a month ago, and is kept parked in the marshalling yard of the Dibrugarh Station at Banipur here. Curious people do go to the yard to have a look at the steel grey LHB coaches, even as they wonder when passengers would get to ride this superfast train.
Queries by this newspaper today at various railway offices here, in Tinsukia and in Guwahati revealed that the Shatabdi service, which was to run on the Dibrugarh�Sivasagar�Mariani� Guwahati line, has missed several commencement dates. While railway officials are vague at the non-commencement of the service, first on New Year�s Day and then on Assamese New Year�s Day this year, what transpires is all-round confusion in efficient train services in Upper Assam.
In the case of the Shatabdi service, it is gathered that vital manpower to run the train and its allied activities is yet to be made operational. While manpower shortage is chronic in the NF Railway � there is no dearth of officers � it is showing in the proper maintenance of services. For example, there is a vacancy of 3,000 trackmen in the NF Railways. God alone knows when these skilled posts will be filled.
While the vacancies are being kept as they are, locals of the region do not get preference even in non-skilled jobs. In the recent recruitment of RPF constables, of the 700 odd posts recruited in the NF Railway, hardly 50 are persons from any of the eight Northeastern States. The vast majority are from the Hindi belt of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, etc. Despite protests, Northeasterners are often found unfit even for a constable�s job!
In a pointer to the flawed planning of train services in the Upper Assam districts, which come under the Tinsukia Railway Division, two examples would suffice. The Dibrugarh Town (DBRT) � Simaluguri passenger train earlier departed from here at 3.15 pm, and was heavily patronised. Now, the train leaves the city at 5 pm, and the passengers dwindled, as the arrival times at Sivasagar and Simaluguri were too inconvenient.
Similarly, the DBRT�Tinsukia�Ledo and DBRT�Tinsukia�Dangori DEMU services were a great hit among passengers as the service provided good connectivity to two major urban centres of the North East, Dibrugarh and Tinsukia. Due to inexplicable reasons, the Dangori service was nipped and later the Ledo service was so ill-timed that passenger bookings at DBRT fell from 1,600 to 400 per day. Several train passengers this reporter spoke to today said they would avail of DEMU services regularly, but the timings have to be recalibrated as in the October �December 2016 timings. They were also suspecting that certain railway officials may have deliberately mistimed the trains to show that suburban train services are not viable in this part of the country.