Frustrated passengers attack station official

For the past four days, frequent disruption on the main line of the Central Railway (CR) network has left commuters fuming. Matters came to a head last morning, when a delay of a suburban train triggered violence, and an attack on a railway official at Asangaon station.

At around 4.48 am, commuters were waiting for the local train to arrive at Asangaon station. Around the same time, the Faizabad-Mumbai LTT Express train passed. Sources in CR said that it was time for the CST-bound local train from Kasara to arrive. “However, this local train was running late and so another long-distance train — the Amravati Express, was given way and announcements were made,” said a CR official. This angered commuters waiting on the platform, who asked the station superintendent Kumar Mathur to stop the train at the platform so they could board it. Yet, the express train left without halting at the platform, making commuters furious. Around 5.15 am, these commuters entered the station superintendent’s office and not only damaged the office, but also assaulted him. By 5.30 am total chaos reigned at the station.

For nearly an hour, the local train services remained affected. The station limped back to normalcy at 7.30 am. “We have appealed to the CR authorities to at least allow long-distance trains to halt at stations when they are carrying out major work, which affects local services,” said Venu Nair, general secretary, National Railway Men’s Union (NRMU).

In course of the day, train services were running late by 15 minutes, while nearly 12 services had to be cancelled. The source of the problem is major work on the Thane yard, wherein the route relay interlocking (RRI) system, signals and alignment of tracks is being altered. Thanks to the alteration in RRI, the ‘diamond crossings’ —, which allow trains to move from one track to another — were changed to normal turnings. The CR officials said that this would allow trains to enter and exit Thane station at 30 kmph, up from 10 kmph.

“We accept that we have faltered in carrying out this work, but in the long run we will be able to improve services between Thane and Kasara or Karjat,” said a senior CR official. Also, the placement of 12 signals was changed and 42 signals were added near Thane and its yard, which reportedly confused motormen steering the trains, causing them to slow down.

“The services will normalise from Friday, as majority of the work has been completed,” said Mukesh Nigam, divisional railway manager (Mumbai), CR.

The first leg of the work began on the night of December 29-30 (Saturday-Sunday), and was to be completed by Monday morning by 4 am. However, due to technical errors, the services were halted from platforms one to three at Thane station.

Sources said that the decision to carry out this work seems to have been made hurriedly, without considering the problems it would unleash on passengers. “The Commissioner of Railway Safety visited Thane and asked us to complete the work as soon as possible. He has also asked us to ensure that such problems don’t occur in the future,” said another CR official.

More in store?
The recent problems have made officials wary of starting on the much-awaited project of extending platforms on the CST-Panvel Harbour line. The Rs 714-crore project is supposed to allow more people to travel on the Harbour line, which presently has 10 lakh commuters daily. Work on this project will definitely entail more mega blocks.

“We will be very careful while implementing the work, as it involves extension of platforms, signals and other assignments. This will surely impact services, if it is not planned thoroughly,” said a railway official.

The project is expected to reach completion by June 2014. “We have already begun initial work of soil testing and other basic activities at various stations ” said an official of the Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation.

How and why
4.48 am: Faizabad-Mumbai LTT Express train passes by

4.51 am: Station superintendent asks controller the location of the delayed local train
5 am: Superintendent learns that Kasara-CST train is running 13 minutes late. Violence breaks out

5.15 am:  Local train arrives 

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