Commuters protested at Churchgate station yesterday afternoon, after Western Railway (WR) officials missed the March 31 deadline to start Virar-Dahanu local services. Commuters say their repeated pleas to ply local electric multiple units (EMU) on the stretch have fallen on deaf ears.
Around 100 protesters, and some noted names such as Bharatiya Janata Party’s Ram Naik, gathered and shouted slogans against the authorities. “We are protesting as the WR administration has failed to commence local trains till Dahanu despite committing to the same in the high court,” said Kailash Verma, general secretary, Mumbai Rail Pravasi Sangh.
Protesters, who gathered at around 1 pm on the footpath near the station that leads to the subway, also said that WR authorities didn’t pay any heed to their request for holding a protest at the station premises. Sources said that railway officials had asked protesters to come for a meeting with WR’s higher ups at 4.30 pm.
However, a member of the commuters organisation said, “We had requested for a meeting at 1.30 pm which the officials didn’t agree for.” The protest went on till about 2 pm and soon railway police and city police officials came to detain the protesters. Officials from WR said that they were clueless that a protest had been planned. “We weren’t informed about any such protest. Also, it didn’t happen inside the station premises,” said a WR official.
Taking a cue from the remonstration, political outfits such as BJP and Shiv Sena jumped into the fray as they sent their old war horse Ram Naik an erstwhile Union railway minister to protest.
Shiv Sena corporator from Vasai Rajkumar Chorghe, who in August 2011 had filed a PIL against the railways for delays in the commencement of the Virar-Dahanu services, has decided to approach the court again. “I have consulted my lawyers and will soon be sending legal notice to the WR and MRVC for not following HC orders and missing the March 31 deadline,” Chorghe said.
The real issue
The reason for delays in the commencement of the 60-km-long corridor is that the route is not fitted with auxiliary warning system (AWS). The AWS is fixed on the suburban local lines to ensure that trains come to an immediate halt even if the motorman accidentally jumps a red signal.
Initially, authorities had planned to run these services without AWS but are now of the opinion that provision of AWS is vital on this stretch as well. Sources said that the AWS would be installed next to signals along the tracks.
Officials added that AWS is not necessary at every signal since the route will have fewer train services.“We are committed to extend it (Virar-Dahanu line) as soon as possible,” said Sharat Chandrayan, chief PRO, WR. At least 12 services have been proposed to be run during peak hours between the stretch.
Presently trains run up to Virar and commuters have to take the 18 main line electric multiple unit (MEMU) shuttle services available from Virar to Dahanu route. On March 29, the WR introduced 40 services between Churchgate and Virar.