WR has 25,000 volts under its wings

Five-hour mega block on Sunday ended 84-year-old Direct Current technology on the Western Railway; upgrade to AC will help save electricity and create scope to introduce additional services

A historic event unfolded, amid the welter, on the Western Railway (WR) corridor yesterday. A brand new dashing red train, which only operates on the 25,000-volt alternating current (AC), was tested on the tracks. There are four such trains in the fleet of the 76-trains on the Western Railway.

Moving with the times: With the jumbo mega block in force yesterday,
WR started plying self-propelled diesel trains, one of which was a double-
decker. Also four new trains that only run on the 25,000-volt AC were
introduced yesterday

It was also a day when WR ran the last 1,500-volt DC train, thus ending the technology that propelled trains for 84-years on the Western line. Besides these two momentous episodes, however, chaos gripped the Western line as a mega block was in place with no trains running from Andheri to Churchgate, thereby causing havoc among commuters.

Although 80 additional bus services were pressed into operation, buses were packed to capacity. To worsen the situation, many auto rickshaw and taxi drivers either refused people or demanded more fare due to the demand. Moreover, the regular nakabandis at specific locations also escalated the traffic woes for the public.

While all this was outside the railway periphery, to tide the accumulation of soaring crowds on 16 rail stations affected by the block, WR started plying three pairs of self-propelled diesel locomotives. One of them included a double decker train. However, passengers traveling in these locomotives didn't have a pleasant experience.

"After waiting for 40 minutes at the platform, when the train finally started from Andheri, it soon became overcrowded. Everyone was haphazardly entering the train," said A Shah, a resident of Borivli who was commuting to Lower Parel.

The huge crowd inside the trains made it difficult for people to board or alight at the next stations. Andheri, Santacruz, Bandra, Dadar and Mumbai Central stations were jam-packed. People could be seen standing on foot over bridges (FOBs), desperately waiting for a train to come, thus leaving hardly any space for people to move around.

New beginnings
But, after five hours and 10-minutesĀ -- the mega block started at 10.30 amĀ -- the first train ran on a trial run from Churchgate after the power upgrade concluded at around 3.15 pm. When the power switches were turned on, the electricity current whined as it flowed through the new shining overhead cables, putting an end to the familiar two-note sound of a moving train. While for the commuters, the first train ran from Churchgate at around 3.40 pm to Virar.

"We have spent around Rs 500 crore on the 1,500-volt DC to 25,000-volt AC power conversion. It will not only help us save electricity but also provide capacity to add train services in the future," said Mahesh Kumar, general manager, WR.

Around 800 workers and engineers were seen striving during the conversion from DC to AC, which will improve the punctuality of trains.

The railway authorities operated 124 trains between Andheri and Virar and 3 diesel run trains ran on Andheri-Churchgate stretch. In November 2011, the conversion was completed on the Borivli-Vile-Parle stretch.

Fact file
On Western line the first DC rake was run on January 5, 1928. Sir Leslie Wilson, Governor of Bombay, inaugurated the Colaba to Borivli electric line from Mahalaxmi station in the presence of 700 invitees.

1936: Borivli to Virar electrified. Steam engine withdrawn
1961: Introduction of 9-car trains
1972: Total number of services crossed the 500 mark
1986: Introduction of 12-car trains
1992: World's first Ladies Special train and exclusive seats for senior citizens introduced
1993: Compartment for physically handicapped introduced
2003: Total number of services crossed 1,000 mark
2009: Introduction of 15-car train
2012: Power upgradE to 25,000-volt

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