CHENNAI: More than 100 Ayyappa devotees, who had paid a hefty premium for tickets on the Chennai-Kochuveli premium train, got stranded on Monday, after their train was cancelled due to lack of patronage. Out of the 100, nearly 35 of them were made to travel in the disabled coach of the Thiruvananthapuram Mail. Another 25 were made to board the SLRD coach of the Mangalore Mail. The rest travelled by the unreserved coach.
Ironically, it is an offence under Railways Act for those without disabilities to enter the disabled coach. Many passengers like 24-year-old IT professional Thanga Jegan claimed that they were not sent any confirmation SMS or mail regarding the cancellation. “We paid `930 for a ticket costing `400 and this is the service we got for paying the premium,” Jegan said.
Though a railway spokesperson claimed that everybody had been informed about the cancellation, those assembled at Central station denied the same. “We ran from pillar to post and finally went to the Southern Railway headquarters. Even there, we were not offered any help,” a passenger said.
Despite frantic requests from Jegan’s father and other devotees, railway officials expressed their inability to make separate arrangements. While others, either cancelled their plans or roamed around, a group of 35 devotees were asked to travel in the SLRD coach of the Thiruvananthapuram mail at 7:45 pm. While refund for their original tickets was promised, they were made to pay ` 225 for the unreserved tickets.
On account of the change in travel plans, their return journey too got affected. “We are already running late by five hours. A private taxi is waiting for us at Kottayam which will stand cancelled. Our return journey will also be affected. Our entire plan has gone haywire,” Jegan said.
This is not the first time a premium train has been cancelled due to lack of patronage. In October, 100 Howrah bound passengers discovered on their arrival at the Central that their train had been cancelled.