City's second mini train idling for seven years

City's second mini train idling for seven years

Seven years ago, when a children’s toy train emerged inside the Deer Park in Hanumanthanagar, Bangaloreans rejoiced. It proudly wore its tag as the City’s second mini-train rivalling the one in Cubbon Park.

Yet, in all these years, the locomotive has run for barely two months! Today, it stands as a disused, rusting relic from the past, making a mockery of its original intent.

Flouting every rule in the operating manual, the firm that won the outsourcing contract to run the train, had made a mess of it. The lowest point came on November 4, 2012, when one of the train’s wheels careened off the tracks due to high speed. Forty children who were on the joy ride luckily escaped, but the damage was done. Investigations revealed that the driver was not even qualified for his job and had dangerously overshot the speed limit of 6-8 kmph along straight alignments and 5-6 kmph along curves.

The contractor, Trans India, was found to be clearly in the wrong. It couldn’t be otherwise, since the contract and the train’s operations were plagued by delays and inefficiencies from the start.  

The train was installed in the Park during 2006-07. But the contract agreement between BBMP and the Trans India was signed only three years later, in January 2010. It took another nine months for the locomotive to be handed over to the company on October 7, 2010. Almost four years in the open had taken a toll on the disused train. But the contract clearly mandated that the train was delivered in a “where-is-as-is” basis, implying the contractor was to get it in running shape after taking the necessary No Objection Certificates from the agencies concerned. 

Nothing moved for almost another year after the contractor contended that the track alignment was not fit to run the train. Eventually, on September 13, 2011, South Western Railway (SWR) officials inspected the train and on February 25, 2012, issued a fitness certificate on the track alignment and engine condition. A copy was sent to the contractor.

But the SWR green signal and another Rs 25 lakh spent on repainting and finetuning the tracks failed to move the train. It finally did, but only after a strongly-worded letter from the BBMP to the company on September 5, 2012 enlisting 10 operating conditions.

 However, the November 4, 2012 accident proved that none of the conditions were adhered to.No speed governor was fixed to the train to restrict its speed. Daily inspection reports on the conditions of  the rail fishplates and alignment were not sent to the BBMP as required. The contractor had also failed to appoint a qualified driver and security guards. Neither a daily register was kept at the ticket counter nor a log book to record the number of times the train was operated. Besides, the contract payments for the second and third years were not remitted to the Palike. The three-year contract was terminated soon. 

The train has been in an idle state ever since. It is learnt that former mayor, K Chandrashekhar recently, wrote a letter to the BBMP to engage the engineering consultancy firm, RITES, to review the project and get the train in running shape again.

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