On a day when Central Railway (CR) authorities celebrated the rollout of the first 12-car train service on Harbour line's CST-Panvel route, commuters at railway stations were left breathless. All trains on the Harbour line, regardless of the number of cars, were halted three coaches ahead on Friday, forcing passengers to break into a 65-m dash to catch them.
Need for speed: Commuters rush to catch the local at the Wadala station. Pic/Suresh Karkera
All motormen have been asked to pull up at the prescribed halt for 12-car locals, close to the signal on platforms, irrespective of whether they are driving 9-car or 12-car trains. The change, said CR officials, is to get them habituated to operating 12-car trains.
"We want to check how well the new 12-car services will work when they are merged with the 9-car services," said a CR official.
Although railway officials publicised the change — through constant announcements on the public address system, notice boards and posters on the windows of ticket counters —commuters weren't clued in to the change.
They stuck to their usual spots and broke into a sprint when the trains stopped ahead. "We are starting the trains slowly so that even if people try catching a running train, they don't fall off," said a CR motorman.
CR officials, complained commuters, havn't thought the plan for 12-car trains through. There are no sunshades at the ends of platforms where the trains now halt, forcing many commuters to stick to their usual spots, instead of risking standing in the scorching heat.
Dockyard Road, Reay Road and Wadala Road stations also threaten to play spoilsport to the new plan. The total length of a 12-car rake (buffer-to-buffer) is 258 m. To accommodate such trains, the ideal length of a platform should be at least 265 m. But, the length of the platforms at these stations is 262 m — leaving a buffer of just 4 m — thus increasing the chances of trains overshooting them.
Besides, the signals are barely 400-450 m apart, which makes speeding for 12-car trains an issue. Also, work on providing parking spaces near Wadala, Panvel and Sanpada stations are still pending.
Sources said railway officials are speeding up the work at Wadala to make space for a second 12-car train.
Mega block tomorrow
While senior CR officials hope to introduce the second 12-car train before May 5, it will take another three months for the authorities to convert the entire fleet of 36 locals from 9-car rakes to 12-car trains.
The CR operates over 570 services on the Harbour line, of which only 14 are 12-car locals. The conversion will up the carrying capacity of the trains by 33%. Currently, 10 lakh people travel on the Harbour line daily.
The Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation, which is extending platforms for 12-car trains, will undertake an eight-hour block again this Sunday, between Mahim and Andheri on the Harbour line to complete the pending works.
Three stations play a crucial role in the success of operations of 12-car trains. mid-day takes a look at their preparedness.
Wadala Road: A large chunk of the work on provision of stabling for trains is still pending. Tracks, too, are only half done. Sources said the curvature here is steep. So, motormen will face a minor visibility problem. This could worsen during a heavy rainfall.
Dockyard Road: The sides of the bridge have been cut to allow extension of the platform. The buffer space is too small.
Reay Road: The branches of a few trees block the signal; they need to be trimmed.
First service a success
The first 12-car train on the Harbour line left the Vashi station at 6 am on Friday and reached the Wadala Road station at the scheduled time, said CR's Chief PRO Narendra Patil. There was no technical glitch, he added. “Our team will monitor and study the running of the train, and try to ascertain its impact on punctuality, passengers and train movement,” said DRM Amitabh Ojha of CR's Mumbai division.