Commuters’ habit of travelling on rooftops has become more of a nuisance for the Central Railway authorities. Other than the obvious risk it poses to life, it has has thrown a spanner in the works to convert the 1,500-volt direct current (DC) power lines to 25,000-volt alternating current (AC) lines from Kalyan to Thane and southwards from there.
This is because the new power system would make rooftop travellers 17 times more prone to injuries or deaths, owing to the higher voltage. The CR authorities and the Commission of Railway Safety (CRS), which is part of the Union ministry of civil aviation, have met several times over the past 10 days.
The CRS wants the CR to deal with the menace first, and has refused permission to carry out the conversion. The two authorities have locked horns over the issue since the beginning of November. Sources said that the CRS is miffed with the CR for not following section 113 of the Railway Act, which calls for an inquiry into every accident involving rooftop travellers.
It is mandatory for the railway authorities to bring a mishap involving rooftop travelling to the notice of the CRS, but this hasn’t been done. It was only when the commissioner of railway safety read media reports that he came to know of the gravity of the situation.
“I have asked the CR to take measures to prevent rooftop travel, and I am sure they are working on it. Once I am satisfied with the solutions to the problem, I don’t mind giving them permission to go ahead with the conversion,” Chetan Bakshi, commissioner for railway safety (central circle) told MiD DAY.
According to officials, at least 20 accidents involving rooftop travellers take place every year on the CR, most of which of which result in deaths. “It is sad that people die due to rooftop travelling. But the upgradation has been done up to Kalyan. Why stop it now?” a CR official said. Regular announcements are made at railway stations, asking people to refrain from climbing atop trains. Yet commuters, especially youngsters, indulge in the practice for adventure.
>> The Central Railway plans to convert the Kalyan-Thane line and the 5th and 6th lines between Thane and Kurla (Lokmanya Tilak Terminus) from 1,500-volt direct current (DC) to 25,000-volt alternating current (AC). The conversion is important for the suburban rail section as it will allow trains to run faster. Moreover, it will result in savings to the tune of Rs 365 crore annually
>> The DC-to-AC conversion is being done at a cost of Rs 1,299 crore for railway lines up to CST. The project has been completed from Karjat to Kalyan, after spending Rs 910 crore. The patch that is yet to be worked on stretches from Kalyan to CST. The Harbour line and the 5th and 6th lines between Thane and Kurla-LTT are also to be converted.
>> The deadline to finish the work, except for the Harbour line, is March 2014
Number of accidents that occur due to rooftop travel every year on an average
Rs 910 cr
Amount spent on converting the railway line to AC power up to Kalyan
Rs 365 cr
Approximate yearly savings of the CR after conversion from DC to AC