Ganpati willing, smoother train rides on WR line soon

Even as a mega block on the Andheri-Borivli line left commuters reeling yesterday, Western Railway officials offered their prayers for a smooth completion of the ambitious DC-AC power conversion project

Western Railway (WR) commuters were left reeling when a mega-block in the Borivli-Andheri stretch disrupted train services yesterday. With God willing, however, their commutes will soon be smoother, faster, punctual and more frequent in number.

God bless us: General Manager of Western Railway Mahesh Kumar
offers his prayers on Day 1 of the project, at the electric substation in
Jogeshwari. pic/shashank rao

WR authorities flagged off their ambitious Rs 500 crore-power conversion project yesterday. At the electric substation in Jogeshwari, where the project was inaugurated, all officials involved in the project were immersed in prayer for 20 minutes, their hands pressed fervently, and their heads bowed in submission before Ganpati.

Conch shells blew, and feverish chanting from the priest filled the air. Mahesh Kumar, the newly appointed general manager for WR, was a humble devotee as he supplicated before the patron God of sciences.

Such a show of ardent devotion is not surprising, when one takes into account the sheer magnitude of the historic project they will now undertake -- the programme will entail conversion of the present 1,500-volt Direct Current (DC) lines to 25,000-volt Alternating Current (AC).

The electric substation at Jogeshwari is one of the most crucial junctions supplying power to the 60-km long Churchgate-Virar 60-km rail route. 

Once the feat is accomplished, suburban train services are expected to be more punctual, energy-efficient, and even allow a greater number of 15-coach and long-distance trains to run continuously on WR, all on a 25,000-volt line, even as far as Jammu. The Rs 500 crore-power conversion scheme is also cost-effective. The reduction of transmission losses will allow the WR to save a whopping Rs 13 crore annually.

Post-conversion, trains will be able to achieve speeds of 100 kmph with ease. "We will be converting all the existing 9-coach trains to 12-coach ones, by March 2012. It will be followed by an expansion of services," said Kumar.

There are presently seven 9-coach trains running on WR's suburban line.

Each train carries 3,900 commuters daily, during peak hours. The authorities, however, have been complaining about the shortage of coaches. The ongoing project will increase each train's capacity by 33 per cent.

The second phase of mega blocks is expected to begin at the end of November, or the beginning of December.

Conversion work on the Vile Parle-Churchgate section will only commence after the Commissioner of Railway Safety gives its permission.

Raring to get aboard: Commuters throng Jogeshwari station after the
mega block on the western suburban railways yesterday was lifted around
5 pm yesterday. Until that time, commuters had to shove and jostle for
space in BEST buses. Pic/ Rane Ashish

Dahanu is still a distant dream
The much-waited extension of the WR suburban line till Dahanu still remains a distant dream. Authorities seem to be in no hurry to announce any dates for this line, in spite of the claims made by the builders' lobby.

No pain, no gain
On day 1 of the project yesterday, a mega block in the Borivli-Andheri stretch disrupted train services, leaving many commuters stranded.

Over 160 suburban commuters asked for refunds at ticket counters, forcing WR to pay back nearly Rs 2,000. 
WR ran 160 special trains between Churchgate-Bandra and Bhayander-Virar, and five special trains between Bandra-Virar.

Long distance trains were provided additional halts at Vasai Road, Bhayander, Andheri, Bandra and Dadar stations. The disrupted train services snowballed into commuting horrors on the Western Express Highway, SV Road and Link Road. 

"It took me three hours to go from Dahisar to Bandra via the road. There was too much traffic," said Ankur Verma.  Auto and taxi drivers cashed in on the disruption, charging extra money for commutes to places like Bandra, Andheri and Jogeshwari. BEST claimed that they ran 150 additional buses mega-block affected areas.
"We had to run special buses due to the mega block on the WR line. There may have been some problems in bus services in the central suburbs, though the train services were not affected there," said S Shinde, chairman, BEST.

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