Western Railway's Rs 500-cr upgrade gets a jolt on Day 1

Grand conversion to 25,000-volt AC power supply was marred by 3 overhead wire failures -- one caused by a crow -- wasting the valuable time of lakhs of commuters.

After spending a staggering Rs 500 crore to upgrade its power system from 1,500-volt Direct Current (DC) to 25,000-volt Alternating Current (AC), officials at Western Railway (WR) were left red in the face yesterday, when the very first day under the new system got off to an ominous start with overhead failures at two spots during rush hour. This was followed by another failure near the arterial Dadar station in the afternoon.

Zor ka jhakta: The first mishap of the day took place at Marine Lines,
when a crow flew into the overhead wire, causing it to snap. Thirteen
train services were cancelled after that. Pic/ Vijay Bate

After grinning and bearing the consequences of Sunday's megablock in hope of promised future gains, WR commuters were disappointed again yesterday, when services were disrupted as early as 7.30 am.

In the first mishap, a crow rammed into the overhead wire at Marine Lines, causing the cable supplying the 25,000-voltage to snap immediately. Not only was the bird killed instantaneously, its weight ended up disjointing the other wire on the same line, causing the second failure.

What ensued was a nightmare for lakhs of office-goers, as trains crawled forward at a snail's pace for the next few hours.

"This was a stray incident, and during this period, we had to cancel 13 train services. Trains were running late by 10-15 minutes," said Nitin David, public relations officer, WR.

Off the track
The incident led to chaos at different railway stations on the 60-km WR stretch.
"The trains were overcrowded, and it was very difficult to board them," said Pallavi Rao, who commutes to Lower Parel every day.

Just as the situation seemed to have been controlled and normalcy restored, disaster struck again, when overhead wires failed at Dadar station. "There was a failure in the overhead cable at 4.10 pm near Dadar station. It was soon rectified," said a WR official. Sources added that the incident took place on the fifth line close to an over-bridge, which is used by long-distance trains.

Sources in the railways said that the earlier 1,500-volt of DC power supply was 17 times less intense than the new power supplying system.

This means that birds perching on overhead cables as they pass bridges or elevated roads are at greater risk for electrocution.

More in store
If railway officials are to be believed, such incidents will continue to occur over the next few days, until the overhead wires passing underneath the roads and foot over-bridges are insulated thoroughly.

"The distance between the train and the overhead cables is less near the bridges. So they ought to be further insulated to avoid such mishaps," said another WR official.

There are 10 bridges on the 21-km long Andheri-Churchgate stretch. MiD DAY had reported ('25,000 volts to 'shock' rooftop travellers soon,' January 30) that the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS), Western Circle, had asked WR to raise the height of bridges on the stretch, in order to maintain a safe gap between the base of the bridge and overhead wires, so they could endure the strength of the 25,000-volt.

However, WR officials had approached the Railway Board and managed to obtain a waiver under the condonation clause, which allowed them to go ahead with the work.

Authorities chose to attribute the glitches to the fact that the crow-nesting season is underway.

When questioned, WR officials assured that the problem would be sorted out over the next four days, as they would rectify the hiccups by placing insulation tubes to strengthen the system.

Rs 140 crore: Amount spent on the signalling system
Rs 120 crore: Amount spent to purchase new trains
Rs 200 crore: Amount spent in setting new overhead cables
Rs 30 crore: Cost of constructing buildings and control rooms

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