A late-night technical failure on the railway tracks caused an ugly scene on Saturday between commuters and the motorman of a Churchgate-Virar train. The problem occurred in the 11.20 pm Churchgate-Virar fast train which, as per schedule, is supposed to reach Virar at 12.48 am. Till Nalasopara, everything was going according to schedule. After it crossed Nalasopara and was heading towards Virar, the motorman realised that there had been a signal failure and the signal was displaying red. Commuters claim the train halted for at least 20 minutes.
The motorman then took the train to platform 8 at Virar station, which is about a kilometre away from the other platforms and the exit. This platform is isolated, and there is a narrow path meant for people to walk, which makes it quite undesirable for many commuters. Sources said that normally trains are taken to either platform 1 or 2, but due to the signal failure, the train couldn’t proceed to the desired platforms.
‘Take a rickshaw’
As soon as the train reached the station around 12.55 am, commuters started to protest against this uncalled-for halt. Normally, announcements are made at Nalasopara informing people that train would be going to platform 8.
They then started shouting and demanding from the motorman Ramprasad B, the reason behind stopping the train on platform 8. The motorman informed people that there had been a signal failure due to which he was forced to take the train all the way to platform 8.
This was when people started shouting that prior intimation through announcements should’ve been provided, as it was a huge problem for senior citizens or the physically disabled. Sources said that motorman lost his cool and suggested that passengers take an auto rickshaw if they felt that it was too far.
This irked the commuters, who then hurled abuses at him. According to people present at the station, the motorman used his briefcase to intimidate people, who by now were getting aggressive, and in the process allegedly hurt one of the commuters. “This further angered people. They demanded that the motorman come out,” said a railway official. A crowd of almost a hundred people had gathered near the motorman’s cabin by this time.
The matter took a turn for the worse when, in a bid to escape the wrath of the public, the motorman used a bamboo stick and pointed it out of his window, at the people, to scare them away. This bamboo, kept inside the motorman’s cabin, is normally used in case of any problem on the roof of the train. People then snatched the bamboo stick and started slamming it against the door, which by then, had been locked by the motorman, fearing for his safety.
The furious mob also threw stones on the windshield of the train. All this occurred despite railway security forces having been present on the spot. The issue was gradually resolved. Sources said the argument continued well over 2.30 am, after which the agitated crowd slowly dispersed.
Ramprasad B, the motorman, said, “This is an official matter and I will give a report of it to my senior authorities. As per service conduct rules, I cannot talk to the media.”
“The train reached Virar station on platform 8 due to technical problems in the signal. The crowd gathered around the motorman cabin, but he didn’t come out of his cabin till security forces arrived. There was no manhandling either by the crowd or the motorman, though stones were thrown,” said N David, WR’s spokesperson.