In a fast-paced city like Mumbai, motorists seldom have the patience to wait for their turn. Just ask the gatekeepers at Chunabhatti railway station who manage the level crossing gate on the north of this railway station.
On an average, every hour the level crossing gates are opened at least 15 times, during which vehicles scram across the railway lines while train services on both sides are halted. This inconveniences the 12-lakh odd commuters travelling on the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) — Panvel Harbour line everyday.
The situation will continue to remain frustrating for both motorists and rail commuters alike until the state government and railways take the initiative to construct a road over bridge (ROB) and close down this level crossing.
Sources in Central Railway (CR) claim that the staff operating the level crossing, who are placed in a small shanty-like cabin next to it, have to be extremely careful. “There have been cases where angry motorists have pelted stones on the rail staff and railway police sitting inside the cabin, simply because of a brief delay in opening the level crossing,” said a CR official on condition of anonymity.
When Sunday MiDDAY visited the station, the staff on duty claimed that part of the cabin walls and wooden doors have been chipped off due to the stones aimed at them.
It was also seen that impatient motorists and pedestrians repeatedly asked the gate staff to open the level crossing barely five minutes after it was closed.
Trains were seen waiting at the turn just before Chunabhatti railway station, even as BEST buses, school buses and private vehicles honked and sped across the narrow level crossing.
Railway officials added that although the road on either side of the level crossing is small, there is scope for building a ROB. “We have informed the state government to shut the level crossing at least during peak hours but there hasn’t been much development,” added another CR official.
The CR has been planning to reduce travel time on the CST-Panvel stretch from 77 minutes to 70 minutes and even lower to 65 minutes over two phases.
They are also planning to add an additional motor coach — replacing the 9-car Harbour train with a 10-car train — to boost the speed of local trains.
“The additional motor coach will augment the speed of trains on the Harbour line and reduce travel time,” said V Malegaonkar, chief PRO, Central Railway.
However, officials agree that unless the level crossing is shut, not much can be done. During peak hours around 17 train services operate.