Mumbai commuters have proved to be their own worst enemy by throwing train schedules off track with frequent rail roko agitations
It all began with the rail roko at Badlapur in August 2016, after which CR commuters were inspired to use the same tactic at other stations too. File pic
The railways have become a soft target for people — every time citizens want to voice a complaint, their protest spills onto the rail tracks. Thanks to this, train cancellations have jumped from 11 to 139 in the last 10 months (between April 2016 to January 2017), as compared to the previous year in the same period.
These protests don't even have to be about the railways. Be it for demolishing illegal slums and structures along the tracks or delayed train operations, commuters, especially those on Central Railway (CR), remorselessly take to rail roko protests, even though this disrupts services for hours. There have been at least 4 incidents of rail roko protests in the past few months on CR. According to CR authorities, a good 139 services had to be cancelled because of rail roko agitations since April 2016. During the same period in 2015-16, only 11 services were cancelled.
"There is drastic disruption in punctuality not due to technical reasons but because people were unhappy – irrespective of whether the railways were at fault or not," said a CR official on condition of anonymity. Punctuality is a big issue for the railways, and such protests have dropped CR's punctuality to 85% (ideally should be 94%). In the last 10 months, 275 services were running late on CR, while the figure is much lower — 98 — in the previous year.
The political brass are loathe to stop people from going on the tracks, as many of them are from the nearby slums — an important vote bank. CR authorities agree that they cannot solely blame these agitations for the dip in punctuality, and there are other factors like manoeuvring of level crossing gates, trespassing accidents and speed restrictions as well. CR has level crossing gates at Kalwa, Diva, Thakurli and Titwala, where trains are forced to halt anywhere between 10-36 minutes to allow road traffic to cross over between east and west. Moreover, trespassing contributes in a major way for delays, as 65% cases lead to deaths. Every day, at least 9-10 people die on tracks in such accidents, delaying train services further.