Tangled cables trigger blackout on CR, halt services for an hour

While it would be inadvisable to stand around in the middle of a busy railway station like Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) during peak hours, thousands of Central Railway (CR) commuters were left with no other option yesterday evening after a technical snag led to several services being cancelled during rush hour.

Chaos: Central Railway commuters stranded after a single cable outside CST station got entangled in the pantograph of an Asangaon-bound fast train yesterday. PICS/Atul kamble, Sayed Sameer Abedi, Satyajit Desai

Technical calamity
The reason for the hour-long ordeal between 5.40 pm and 6.45 pm was a single cable spanning across all six railway lines outside CST station that got entangled in the pantograph of an Asangaon-bound fast train. The train had left platform 7 at CST and was traversing a crossover as it was changing tracks, when passengers said that they heard a loud blast.

“We were afraid, as we always carry the fear of a blast taking place anytime and anywhere, especially in the local trains. A few male passengers also tried jumping off the train, but it was soon understood that it was some technical snag in the wires,” said Arjun Punjabi, who was travelling to Dombivli.

Sources said that it is possible that the pantograph (the equipment that connects the power lines to the train) got entangled with the cross span cable, causing the power to trip. “The cross span cable connects supply to all six lines and so initially, Harbour and slow and fast services on the main line had to be shut,” said a CR official.

Soon after the incident, CR authorities had to shut down the power supply. When MiD DAY reached the spot, it was observed that workers were working under bare minimum light and torchlight, separating the entangled portions by cutting and rejoining cables.

By 6.45 pm, the cross span was finally separated and authorities managed to run the first slow local for Dombivili on the main line. Around the same time, Harbour line trains to Panvel were also started. During this period of over an hour, CST station was jam packed.

Display boards showed all trains to be at the platforms and at around 6.30 pm the trains were still running 45 minutes late. There were announcements being made about a technical failure just after CST station, while, the TV screens scattered around the station displayed only advertisements.

To add to the frustration, cell phone networks seemed to be jammed throughout the station. “The pantograph got entangled, and so there was problem. Trains began running at 6.45 pm,” said V Malegaonkar, chief PRO, CR. Meanwhile, railway police stood outside the stationmaster’s, motormen’s and guard’s cabins, hoping that the frustration didn’t escalate into violence.

Buses overcrowded
Hundreds of stranded passengers headed towards DN Road for other modes of transport and found that even BEST buses were running to their full capacity. Many people were hanging out of moving buses, while the air-conditioned ones refused to pick up speed due to overcrowding, with passengers even sitting on the steps.

Train services were run from Dadar back to Kalyan/Karjat/ Kasara and Wadala back to Andheri/Panvel. Although train services resumed later, commuters complained of the heavy rush. “There was no place to board at Dadar station. It was jam-packed and trains were arriving every 20 minutes or so,” said K Verma, a resident of Andheri.

Meanwhile, the up and down fast line going towards CST and Kalyan resumed at around 7.45 pm after the Asangaon-bound train was cleared. “The train services finally began running properly by 8.15 pm. Nearly 60 suburban services could be cancelled till midnight,” said a CR official. 

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