CST deserted at 10 am on a weekday!

Apr 19, 2012, 07:15 IST | Mustafa Shaikh

'There is a technical failure at the signal room near Kurla station. Trains on the central route are indefinitely late. Please bear with us.' The seemingly usual announcement of a delay reverberated across all Central Railway stations through most of yesterday, but it caused lakhs of commuters unusual tribulations.

Following the signal failure at Kurla-Vidyavihar stations due to a blaze, the metropolis’s lifeline to the island city was callously sliced, as locals were running late by hours. Mumbaikars failed to reach their offices on time. Many could not make it. Passengers were stranded at stations, in trains, and on tracks in the sweaty heat. And a most extraordinary sight was witnessed. 

In what is normally the morning rush hour on a working Wednesday, the bustling Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), the busiest in this overpopulated space-crunched metropolis, was empty. On normal days, you’d be lucky to find yourself a square foot of ground to hang on to in this station brimming with life and hectic activity. Yesterday, the platforms were desolate. Only a handful of people, mostly vendors and workers at the station, lounged about, waiting for their customers to stream in.

Said a cobbler at CST, “We earn our livelihood at the station every day. Our only source of income is the passengers who commute from here. By this time on a normal day, I make about Rs 50, but today I haven’t even made Rs10. Never have I seen the station so bare!” As the dynamic hub in the city, where many government offices are situated, slowed down, frustrated commuters got on long-distance trains to arrive at CST. Said SS Nair, who works at the Naval Dockyard, “A travel which takes 50 minutes of my time today took four hours. Only two people who stay in the western suburbs have reached office.” GRP officers could closely witness the commuters’ strife. “It is our duty to check baggage, but people are late for work and stressed. If we ask them to show us their bags in this situation, they will simply lose their temper,” said a GRP officer at CST.

But the worst hit were of course Kurla and Vidyavihar, where the trouble started. Hundreds were stranded at these stations. “The crowd at the station was two times more than that on normal days, and that’s saying a lot because it is enormous on normal days. Stations were spilling over,” said 70-year-old PR Dhawale, who was stranded at Kurla Station.

What a ride
Average travel time spent aboard a CR train yesterday:
Ghatkopar to CST: 2 – 2.5 hours
Kalyan to CST: 6 hours
Dombivli to CST: 5 hours
Lonavala to CST: 7.5 hours

It took me two hours to reach Kurla from Kanjurmarg. And now I am facing trouble while going back. I have been waiting for a train for the past 30 minutes. I have heard that this problem is going to continue for a coupe of days more. 
— Arvind Ghalot (36) 

I caught a 6:30 train from Kalyan, which took 4½ hours to reach Kurla. There was barely a spot to stand in the train, which was crawling ahead. I really had a testing day today.
— PR Dhawale (70)

My shop is in Dadar and I stay in Khargar. I change trains at Kurla every day. It’s been two hours since I left my home and I am still at Kurla. — Harjeet Bedi

I caught a train from Panvel, which took two hours to reach Chembur, and came to a halt there. Many commuters walked from Chembur to Tilaknagar.
— Suresh Muknak

WR services derailed as man gets trapped under train
The Central Railway commuters were not alone in facing delays last morning. After a 45-year-old man Shyam Sakharam Pawar got caught between the wheels of a Churchgate-bound local at Bandra station around 9.15 am, Western Railway had to stop the train. He was pulled out from the wheels, but succumbed to his injuries later. The rescue operation took around an hour after which services were resumed. Pawar was rushed to Cooper hospital where he was declared dead. According to passengers, several trains ran an hour behind schedule, but railway officials said that it the delay was a short one. Sharat Chandrayan, chief PRO, WR, said, “A few trains were affected due to the incident but we immediately caught up with the lag.”

BEST pressed into service
The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) authorities mobilised an additional 309 buses yesterday in order to provide relief to commuters turned away by the dysfunctional central line. Officials said they tried their best to accommodate as many passengers as the buses would allow, as the latter did not have any alternative to get to home or office. “We have immediately put our bus services on roads. We tried to accommodate maximum passengers on maximum routes,” said a BEST spokesperson. — Vedika Chaubey  

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