Mumbai: Rains choke city's lifelines, leave commuters gasping

With CR and WR all but shut, many office-goers had to return from railway stations while several others had to take U-turns after finding even the roads flooded; only auto and taxi drivers were happy, at the expense of commuters, as they got to charge exorbitant sums

The BMC’s claims of Mumbai being monsoon-ready collapsed completely yesterday with the downpour crippling transportation systems across the city, shutting down its lifelines and forcing Mumbaikars to remain indoors.

Commuters waiting for a train at Sion station yesterday. Almost all the servcies on the Central line were cancelled immediately after the downpour. Pic/Atul kamble
Commuters waiting for a train at Sion station yesterday. Almost all the servcies on the Central line were cancelled immediately after the downpour. Pic/Atul Kamble

Many office-goers had to return from railway stations and take U-turns halfway to their destinations after seeing the extent of waterlogging on the roads. Services on local trains, which more than 70 lakh citizens depend on every day, remained suspended for the most part, with the performance of Central Railway proving to be more dismal than its Western counterpart.

Several commuters walked along the submerged tracks to reach their destinations after train services were called off. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
Several commuters walked along the submerged tracks to reach their destinations after train services were called off. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

The Metro and Monorail services managed to keep their heads above the water by running services with delays. With the local trains not functioning, BEST was left to shoulder the burden of ferrying the bulk of public transport users.

But it had problems of its own to take care of as well, with several drivers and conductors failing to show up for duty. Most private vehicles also stayed off the road.

Double whammy
It was a double whammy for the Central Railway, with the non-stop downpour coming barely a week after the conversion from 1,500-volt DC to 25,000-volt AC, which had involved lowering the tracks in certain places. 

CR was affected right since morning, especially on the CST-Thane, stretch, with the CST-Kurla patch witnessing the most problems. The area around Currey Road station and the Sion-Matunga stretch, which are low-lying to begin with, were the worst affected.

Sources said the fact that tracks were lowered by by 10-20mm at Currey Road and Matunga added substantially to the problem. “We had to lower tracks for making the power upgradation possible. We had anticipated issues in case of heavy rains and our fears came true yesterday,” said a CR official.

The stretches from Currey Road to Parel, Masjid to Sandhurst Road, Matunga to Kurla on Central Railway and the areas near the Chunabhatti and Wadala stations on the Harbour line face waterlogging every year as there are storm water drains along the tracks, which are at a higher higher level than the tracks themselves.

When these overflow, as happened yesterday, the water floods the tracks. “When the water went higher than 150 mm above track level, we had to shut down train services," said another CR official, adding that the water had gone as high as 457.2 mm above the tracks in several areas.

CR ran shuttle services, with a gap of 20-30 minutes between Thane and Karjat/Kasara on the Main line and Vashi and Panvel on the Harbour line.

Technical issues
Western Railway also suffered due to severe waterlogging. “In the last three years, the train services did not get affected due to rains. But the situation was very bad yesterday," said a WR official. WR did, however, fare better than CR as it managed to keep some trains running for a few hours, albeit with long delays.

The major problem areas for WR were Mahim station and the stretch between Bandra and Khar, where water was flowing with great force. Overhead wires, tracks and signals also faced technical issues due to the rains.

Services remained crippled between Churchgate and Andheri until about 4.20pm, when a train left from Churchgate and began crawling out at 8-10kmph. These services had to be shut down again after 6.30 pm

On road
With the roads in many area resembling swimming pools, most private vehicles stayed off. BEST, which ran 3,457 buses against the 3,804 it had planned to run, struggled a lot in the first half of the day. “Many drivers and conductors failed to reach bus depots due to waterlogging,” said a BEST official.

In a bid to cater to as many people as possible, the Undertaking extended the routes of 212 buses. “The CM asked us to run more buses from Dadar and Kurla stations in order to ferry passengers as Central Railway was not working ,” said Manoj Varade, spokesperson, BEST.

Taxis make hay
Taxi and auto drivers were the only ones laughing all the way to the bank. Commuters said they shamelessly refused passengers on the grounds of waterlogging and ferried only those who were willing to pay exorbitant sums.

Unions expressed their helplessness in stopping the taxi and auto drivers from overcharging and said they couldn’t force drivers to ply in the heavy rains. “Due to heavy rains, only 60% of rickshaws were plying,” said Shashank Rao, auto union leader.

They were charging as much as 2-3 times more per seat and dropping people on the highways, saying they wouldn't enter the internal roads for fear of waterlogging.

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