Heavy fog throws rail, air traffic out of gear, disrupts travel plans

Heavy fog over the past few days has played havoc with train and flight schedules in the city. While trains have been running hours behind schedule, airlines have been affected with many having to ground their flights.

The Chandigarh Airport is ill-equipped to deal with heavy fog despite the Instrument Landing System (ILS) having been upgraded in January 2011. While the Administration had then claimed that it would ensure smooth landing of flights in fog, the ILS, however, has only been upgraded to CAT I, which allows pilots to land when visibility is 1200 metres or above. When visibility reduces below this mark, the ILS is of no use. The heavy fog in the city has reduced visibility to around 200 metres.

This has led to flights, from Delhi and Mumbai which reached Chandigarh, having had to be sent back.

Planes have rarely taken off from the airport with the worst affected being the ones that had been scheduled to leave in the morning. Only a few take to the skies during a small window, when the sun comes out in the afternoon.

M R Jindal, the station manager of Air India at Chandigarh, said the national carrier's flight from Chandigarh to Delhi scheduled for January 8 has been cancelled. With most of the morning flights cancelled and passengers seeking a refund, it has been a difficult period for airlines, with many complaining of huge losses.

While trains are still plying, they have been running late. The worst hit have been the long distance trains with some arriving in the city nearly a day behind schedule. Experiments by Railway authorities to facilitate the the running of trains during fog have not borne fruit. While hundreds of trains are affected in the northern states, a permanent solution has not been found.

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