What can 150-m-long trails of tracks used by Western Railway (WR) trains to switch lines do for its 37 lakh commuters? They can help add at least 120-150 more daily services on this congested route. The WR has sought permission from the commissioner of railway safety to increase the speed of trains from 15 kmph to 30 kmph at crossovers to enable it to add more services.
On track: WR authorities estimate that at least 120 services can be added every day on all four lines together if trains are allowed to increase their speed to 30 kmph at crossovers. File pic
The WR operates 1,035 services. It hasn't been able to add more services in the last two years since the current system cannot take any additional burden. Sources say the only way to increase the number of services is by increasing the speeds at crossovers (when trains switch lines) as at present both the rakes and tracks are capable of this.
"If the crossover time is increased to 30 kmph, then automatically, the train would take half the time it takes now to complete a journey, which is around 40-50 minutes," explains a WR official.
120 more services
Each hour, the WR operates around 15 train services, with a headway of 4 minutes on each line. As per a rough estimate of WR authorities, at least 120 services can be added every day on all four lines together if trains are allowed to increase their speed to 30 kmph at crossovers.
Sources say if trains manage to enter stations faster or can switch lines, then the turnout of services will improve, providing scope for adding more services. WR runs around 400 services daily that use crossovers to switch tracks. Officials say this is over a third of their total operational services.
Slowing down trains
The low speed at crossovers slows down the schedule of trains, says a senior WR official. When a train uses these crossovers — especially semi-fast trains that change rail lines — it blocks the movement on three lines. A train is about 270 m long and the length of a crossover connecting different rail lines is around 150 m.
During peak hours, the authorities have scheduled these trains to switch tracks to manage fast train services running to and from Virar. When a train is given the green light to cross tracks, the switchover takes 90-100 seconds. During this time, three lines get blocked and other services get a green light only when the train switching over passes completely. If the speed limit is increased, the trains can complete the switch in 40-50 seconds.
There are crossovers at Churchgate, Santacruz, Andheri, Goregaon and Borivli stations on the Churchgate-Borivli stretch. WR authorities want to first get permission for this 34-km stretch, on which nearly 700 train services run every day. They will then set their sights on the Borivli-Virar stretch.