The Central Railway stations across the city exuded a collective mix of anguish, confusion, outrage and sweat from stranded commuters yesterday. Train services were hopelessly disrupted following a fire breakout at the Kurla-Vidyavihar signalling cabin late on Tuesday night. While the fire was doused relatively quickly, the damage had been done.
As the signalling equipment had been destroyed, the Central line came to a standstill on yesterday morning, with around 38 lakh passengers left out on a limb. The few services that followed were arbitrary and a strenuous exercise in shoving and scrambling for breathing space. While many protested the interruption in train schedules, even more expressed their indignation at the lack of preparedness, and the failure of the railway authorities to communicate clearly with commuters. No coherent information or explanation was given to them, they complained.
Said a commuter who arrived at her destination hours later, “At Chembur station, we were waiting for ages. We didn’t know what was happening. Finally, we were told that trains would not be running. In the end, I did manage to reach my destination but three hours late.” While some passengers looked to other means of transport, others decided to wait it out, hoping for signs of resumption of services. By noon at Dadar station, the air was rank with frustration, with passengers growing increasingly impatient on congested platforms. The midday heat and humidity did not help. Tempers were volatile. Overloaded trains were reported to have arrived over 45 minutes late. Scuffles broke out as people on the platforms clawed and pushed their way into trains, stuffed well beyond their maximum capacity. Despite the railway authorities’ attempts to compensate, by allowing ticket holders to use long-distance trains for their commute, complaints continued to flow in.
Tapan Sahoo, on his way to Kurla from Dadar station, said, “I’ve been waiting here for the last 45 minutes for a train, but there hasn’t been any yet. We were told that all Central Railway ticket holders could use long distance trains, but when the local is non-functional, how do they expect the other to work? By some miracle, should a train make it to the station, it will be packed, and people may get injured trying to board or alight.”
Jeet Khona, travelling from Sion to CST, said, “Yet again, there are problems with trains. It has been over 12 hours since the fire occurred, and they are still struggling to fix the problem. This is the second time in a week that I have been late because of the negligence of the railways. If these occurrences do not cease, I will have no choice but to take the bus from now on.”