69 years of Western Railway: How a cluster of princely state railways became Mumbai's lifeline

Updated: Nov 04, 2019, 14:03 IST | Rajendra B Aklekar |

Other than these achievements and accolades of Western Railway's RPF, the RPF has also rescued human lives in extreme flood situations and distributed food packets and other necessary objects in such tough times

The line that came down from Gujarat to Mumbai to become a significant lifeline of Mumbai now celebrates 69 years.

The Western Railway was created on 5 November 1951 by the merger of several state-owned railways, including the Bombay, Baroda, and Central India Railway (BB&CI), and the Saurashtra Railway, Rajputana Railway and Jaipur State Railway. The narrow gauge lines of Cutch State Railway was also merged into it in 1951.

The railways of several princely states were also integrated into the Western Railway. The Gaekwars of Baroda built the Gaekwar's Baroda State Railway (GBSR), which was merged into the BB&CI in 1949. Several railways of western Gujarat, including the Bhavnagar, Kathiawar, Jamnagar & Dwarka, Gondal, and Morvi railways were merged into the Saurashtra Railway in 1948. The Jodhpur–Bikaner Railway was taken over by Rajasthan state in 1949 after the western portion was ceded to the government of Pakistan.

The BB&CI Railway was itself inaugurated in 1855, starting with the construction of a 29-mile (47-km) broad gauge track from Ankleshwar to Utran in Gujarat state on the west coast. In 1864, the railway was extended to Mumbai.

From drones to biometric checks and from body cameras to dedicated bomb squads, the Western Railway has procured hi-end security gadgets to keep its lines safe as it is all set to celebrate its 69th Foundation Day on 5th November 2019.

Serving the financial capital of the country i.e. Mumbai along with western parts of the country, as a strong medium of public transport, Western Railway has benefited the Nation not only in its financial and industrial development but also has played a vital role in national integration. Through Western Railway’s rail services and facilities, it has connected many places and hearts which has brought people closer in social togetherness and created a sense of national integrity among all.

On its 69th Foundation Day, it becomes pertinent to look in retrospect the many achievements and milestones Western Railway has achieved in all these years in an informative series in which we now focus on Western Railway’s contribution in the field of security. With technological advancements at a fast pace, Western Railway’s Railway Protection Force and the Government Railway Police have also incorporated newer and modern ways to impart best security services to its valued passengers.

According to Ravinder Bhakar – Chief Public Relations Officer of Western Railway, since its inception on 5th November 1951, Western Railway has made special efforts to strengthen the Govt. Railway Police (GRP) and it's Railway Protection Force (RPF) to protect and safeguard railway property and to combat crime against it. Western Railway has recently carried out special operations such as “Operation Thunder”, “Operation Storm”, “Operation Thirst”, “Operation Hunt”, “Operation Number Plate” and “Operation Tatkal”, etc. with great zeal and enthusiasm which has resulted in arresting touts, offenders, seizure of tickets, sub-standard water bottles and action against vehicles parked more than their stipulated time.

RPF has made patrolling for effective train escorting in Rajdhani & Shatabdi trains. A total of 152 passenger trains are being escorted by RPF, fully equipped with modern gadgets such as Body Worn Cameras, Arms and Ammunition, etc. Over Mumbai Suburban section, 10 ladies special trains and 12 AC local trains are escorted by RPF. All ladies coaches of Mumbai Suburban trains are also escorted by GRP/Maharashtra during the night hours.

Currently over the Mumbai Suburban section, 552 RPF and 220 Maharashtra Security Force (MSF) staff deployed for Crowd Management at busy and heavily crowded stations. 18 vulnerable Foot Over Bridges (FOBs) has been identified by the team. RPF Mitras have been involved in crowd regulation with RPF & GRP. Monsoon Help Desks have been installed at 13 stations for senior citizens and Divyang passengers during monsoon season. A WhatsApp group was also created for speedy communication & to take precautionary action during monsoon. The RPF and GRP also conduct mock drills along with the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) regularly at major stations. At present, 19 segways have been provided at major stations for force multiplier and effective real-time patrolling. 32 sniffer dogs have been deployed for random checking in passenger areas.

In a bid to improve better community relations, to ensure accountability of an on-duty officer/staff, to prevent false complaints against staff and to streamline evidence collection, RPF has introduced Body-Worn Camera Video system over Western Railway for RPF Train Escort Party and platform duty officers. RPF has also played an instrumental role in returning valuables and luggage to hundreds of passengers year after year. In 2019-20 alone, more than 400 children and 37 ladies have been rescued and reunited with family or handed over to NGOs or the police. Child Help Desk have been provided at seven stations of Western Railway i.e., Mumbai Central, Bandra Terminus, Surat, Vadodara, Ahmedabad, Ratlam and Rajkot stations.

The proposal for additional 15 Child Help Desk is under process at Anand, Nadiad, Godhara, Indore, Ujjain, Ambedkarnagar, Meghnagar, Dahod, Surendranagar, Morvi, Jamnagar, Porbandar, Junagadh, Botad, Bhavnagar stations. The brave and alert RPF staff have saved 22 lives this year alone who had fallen in the gap of platform and train without thinking about their own lives. 1267 Walkie-Talkie sets are effectively used for better communication in group instead of the mobile phone. Baggage Scanners installed at major stations viz Churchgate, Mumbai Central (M), Dadar, Borivali, Surat etc. Four biometric token machines have also been introduced at major stations to make travel in general class hassle-free. Every Western Railway Division is equipped with one set of Bomb Detection Equipment. 1533 CCTV cameras at 107 stations are effectively used for prevention & detection of passenger crime and cleanliness at stations. The RPF has also played a vital role in conducting regular awareness programmes to educate passengers about the All India Helpline No. 182 and awareness against not eating edible items from strangers or passengers to prevent drugging incident.

Other than these achievements and accolades of Western Railway’s RPF, the RPF has also rescued human lives in extreme flood situations and distributed food packets and other necessary objects in such tough times. The Proposal for procurement of a UAV Drone for monitoring safety and security of Railway Tracks from Churchgate to Borivali is under process. RPF has also created its own Cyber Cell to track down dubious online activity and to catch hold of criminal offences online. Modern Gadgets are issued and Revamping of SIB & CIB units is done to enhance the security of Passengers for their hassle-free travel and as per the expectation of Railway Administration.

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