Better safe than sorry

Passenger safety and comfort: that, for most railway services around the world, is all that matters. It's what drives most decisions, prompting changes that aim to make a commute more manageable. Things don't work that way in our fair city though.

Take the recent much-publicised upgrade by the Western Railway. It spent a staggering Rs 500 crore -- that's Rs 500 crore of your and our money, dear tax-payer -- to upgrade its power system from 1,500-volt Direct Current (DC) to 25,000-volt Alternating Current (AC). This was done (we were politely informed) to make the running of trains more efficient. It was done to make the commute from one point of the city to another a lot faster.

So, there were mega-blocks to be endured on weekend after painful weekend. Citizens suffered in silence, waiting in their thousands on crowded platforms for trains that didn't arrive, all because they were promised a better ride. And then, on the very first day under the new system, a crow managed to bring down an overhead wire. To put this into perspective, a crow brought down a system that cost Rs 500 crore to put into place. To add insult to injury, authorities attributed this to the fact that the crow-nesting season was underway.

There are, as always, more than a few questions to be pondered here: Do the powers that be ever think a project through in its entirety? Do they invite suggestions and act upon them the way they ought to? Do words like 'accountability' and 'transparency' mean nothing to them?

WR officials now assure us the problem will be sorted out over the next few days. They want to rectify hiccups, apparently, by placing insulation tubes to strengthen the system. Naturally, these insulation tubes won't be free. Guess who has to pay.

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