History in the making might just hit a speed bump.Exactly 160 years after Asia’s first local breezed along its maiden journey in 1853 from Bori Bunder to Thane, Mumbai’s suburban rail network is set to extend its western limb, to make life easier for some 80,000 commuters between Virar and Dahanu. But history may just be riddled with speed bumps.
On April 16, Union Railway Pawan Kumar Bansal will flag off the first local from Dahanu - which will leave Virar behind to be the last local station on the western route — to Churchgate. But officials are not sure if this historic feat will be as smooth as that first ride all those years ago. Thanks to the rakes plying on the section which are still experiencing teething troubles. They do not speed up fast enough, and even break down at times.
Hitch in the ride
The Western Railway procured 10 special rakes manufactured by the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Chennai for the Churchgate-Dahanu route. They have the electrics to run on 25,000-volt alternating current (AC). However, ever since the first of these started plying on December 25 last year on the 60-km-long Churchgate-Virar route, there have been snags. At times, the locals have stopped midway.
The WR procured three of these rakes in January this year at a cost of Rs 72 crore. Official sources said the transformers and motors fitted in these trains malfunction at times. “These are old rakes retrofitted with new electrics and motors. So at times they give trouble,” said a WR official, adding that the problems would be taken care of. Replacing the problematic paraphernalia will consume time and money.
Own sweet time
Due to the faults, the train cannot go beyond a speed of 80 kmph, unlike others that can accelerate to 100 kmph. The motormen believe that it might not be able to cover the 64-km Virar-Dahanu stretch within the stipulated time frame. “The problems restrict the trains from accelerating and decelerating fast. They take at least a kilometre to speed up. That these don’t have pneumatic brakes, ventilation or even illumination inside coaches isn’t good,” said a WR official. These rakes initially had the cables and electrics for running on 1,500-volt direct current (DC) line.
Officials reason that since these trains wouldn’t be carrying that much traffic all the way to the last station, the speed and timings between two trains can be compromised. “We are operating these ICF-make trains as we need to give away our trains that can run on DC-AC to Central Railway which is also upgrading its system,” said Sharat Chandrayan, chief public relations officer of the Western Railway.
All about the trains that will blaze the trail on the new route from Dahanu to Churchgate on April 16:
>> They will be 12-car rakes
>> They will run on pure alternating current,
>> They will be more spacious, with 6% additional capacity
>> Seating capacity will increase to 1,242 from the current 1,174. The seating capacity of the 24-hour second-class ladies compartments will go up from 159 to 170.
>> Initially, eight services will be operated from Dahanu
80,000 Number of daily commuters between Virar and Dahanu
34 Lakh Number of daily commuters between Virar and Churchgate