'Difficult to say when trains will run without a hitch'

There seems to be no end to the woes brought upon the 37-lakh commuters on the Central Railway (CR) network by the remodelling work in Thane which began on December 29. Even though ten days have passed, CR authorities seem clueless about the date on which services will be back on track.

Yesterday, two separate incidents in Thane delayed train services. The first glitch occurred after the pantograph of the locomotive of a goods train moving from Trombay to Bhigvan developed a technical snag at Thane at 11.55 am.

Around 3.45 pm, the pantograph of a Kalyan-bound fast train got entangled with overhead cables at Thane, disrupting services till 4.30 pm and affecting timings of slow trains. “Train services are limping back to normalcy. At present it is difficult to say when services will start operating punctually again,” said a CR official.

“Henceforth we will concentrate on improving communication between passengers and central railway, not only before the work but during the work as well,” said V Malegaonkar, chief PRO, CR. MiD DAY spoke to Mukesh Nigam, divisional railway manager (Mumbai), CR on the issue.

Even on Monday, there were problems. By when can people expect problem-free services?
By Monday evening the peak hour train services resumed normalcy. It is difficult to say by when train services would operate without a single difficulty.

Was the disruption on Monday part of the Thane remodelling work? Will there be an enquiry?
We will be investigating the cause of all problems until now and address those who are responsible.

Thane remodelling work has disrupted the commute on the suburban section. How complex was this work?
The work involved the intervention of many departments. The route relay interlocking involved work by the signalling team, engineering, electrical and signalling departments were involved in the yard, and once it is completed, the operation department will be involved. The electrical department is looking after testing of DC/AC power conversion on Kalyan-Thane route and replacement of signals is the work of the signal and telecommunication departments. Shifting of 16 crossovers was undertaken by the construction department.

Lessons learnt?

Central Railway authorities claim to have experienced problems that they had not anticipated during the mega blocks on December 29, 30 and 31, and say they are planning remedies.


Here are a few:

Nearly 80-odd labourers left the spot where work was underway on the night of December 31. This delayed the work.
Remedy: In future, authorities will create temporary tents or arrange for labourers to stay at the nearest railway quarters, so they can be monitored. The arrangement will also allow labourers to get sufficient rest and compel them to report to work on time.

There were cases of machines and equipment not functioning or suffering outage in the middle of work.
Remedy: The contractors will be asked to give demonstrations of all the equipment that will be used during blocks and if needed, heavier machines will be borrowed from other railways.
The motormen ran trains at slow speeds, as they were confused about the ongoing work.
Remedy: The authorities are planning to brief motormen by showing them models of the entire area where work will be undertaken with revised position of tracks and signals. The state government would be requested to provide extra BEST and state buses in areas affected by the block.

The commuters were clueless about the nature of work and made no alternate arrangements for their commutes. This led to chaos at platforms and inside trains.
Remedy: The railways are planning a GPS-based passenger information system that will send live updates about the position of trains to commuters. It will use a satellite to send information. 

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