While the Metro trial run is being touted as a grand success, it appears that exultant officials got a little carried away by the fanfare surrounding the event yesterday.
In a gross violation of safety norms governing trial runs, photographers and journalists from the media were allowed to enjoy the very first Metro ride in the city. They had no idea that this is a grievous violation of a safety rule that says that no member of the general public can be allowed on trial runs, before a safety certificate has been obtained from relevant authorities.
The mood was festive as Chief Minister Prithiviraj Chavan arrived to flag off the official trial run of the Versova- Andheri-Ghatkopar (VAG) Metro on the 3-km stretch between Versova and Azad Nagar Metro stations. Before giving the green signal, Chavan entered some of the coaches for a customary inspection. MMRDA, MMOPL officials and the ubiquitous scribes trooped in after him.
After taking a round, Chavan stepped out of the train to give the final go-ahead. Officials followed close on his heels, and hovered around the CM as he prepared to flag off the train’s maiden journey. The scribes stayed put inside, and officials, too busy attending to the guest of honour, didn’t bother to tell them that they too were meant to dismount.
It was only when the train chugged out of the platform that it dawned on some of the officials that there were people on board, a gross violation of safety norms. Alarmed, they hastily called the control and informed the motormen to bring the train back, aware that transporting people without a safety certificate could get them in trouble.
A lensman who was on board the train, said, “We had entered the coaches to get footage of the compartment, but no official told us that we were not allowed to travel in the train. The train set off from Versova and took us to Azad Nagar. It was only during the return journey that some of the officials informed us that weren’t supposed to be on the train.”
A functionary from the office of the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) confirmed that according to the rules, no member of the general public is allowed to travel in the train during trial runs. In order to allow commuters on board, a certificate from CRS is mandatory.
Responding to the slip-up, a senior official from the CRS office, requesting anonymity, said, “Apart from the motormen and officials from the implementing agencies, no other person is allowed to travel in the train during its trail run. Transporting people via Metro rail without a CRS certificate is wrong. It puts the life of passengers at risk.”
Speaking to MiD DAY, Metropolitan Commissioner UPS Madan said, “To the best of my knowledge, no one was allowed to travel in the train during the trial run, as the train doesn’t have a CRS certificate. If someone has managed to sit in the train, that is wrong on the part of the individual.” The MMOPL spokesperson said, “We never allowed anybody to travel in the train. However, if some people travelled in the train, they did so without our permission. We will make sure that such things are not repeated.”
Chavan gave an optimistic speech at the event, saying, “Flagging off the official Metro trial runs on Maharashtra Day is an appropriate tribute to all the workers, technicians, officials, engineers who are striving hard to complete this Metro corridor. We must compliment them, for they have brought the Metro to your doorstep without stopping the daily railway routine or halting the highway traffic even for a single day.”
Saying that trial runs would continue for the next few months before safety certification could be obtained, he added, “We expect the first phase from Versova to Airport Road to open around September, and the second phase from Airport Road to Ghatkopar be running by the year-end. The construction of this particular corridor posed many a question, such as decades-old unmapped underground utilities, congested areas, and never-ending traffic snarls. It has been a challenging task, to say the least.”