Mumbai: Holiday timetable plunges local rail network in chaos

Updated: Jul 04, 2019, 07:09 IST | Rajendra B. Aklekar |

With no full-time GM, Central Railway goof-up leaves lakhs of commuters fuming in morning rush hour

Commuters wait for trains at Dombivli in the morning rush hour on Wednesday
Commuters wait for trains at Dombivli in the morning rush hour on Wednesday

The Central Railway (CR) decided to get into holiday mode with its timetable on Wednesday, plunging the network into chaos during the morning rush hour. CR claims the decision had been taken based on weather predictions by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD). But it had to be rolled back after the morning rush hour ended, by when it had already inconvenienced lakhs of commuters and caused accidents, big and small.

Sources said with no full-time general manager and confused senior officials, CR's Mumbai division has been left with growing mismanagement and a lack of direction. CR's divisional railway manager S K Jain, who returned from holiday on Tuesday, received a rap from the Railway Board in New Delhi over the deteriorating situation. This mismanagement seemed to be evident on Wednesday too, when CR decided to run its holiday timetable. The timetable runs over 350 trains lesser than the regular 1,774 services. Moreover, high-capacity 15-car train services are also cancelled when it is being followed.

At Kalwa, they were seen walking to Thane station to catch a train
At Kalwa, they were seen walking to Thane station to catch a train

The reason
Railway officials claimed they decided to follow the holiday timetable because they had to open up the wheel axles of the trains that were marooned during the recent downpour. Because of the new timetable, while the services were cut, the ones scheduled to run also had delays of 30 to 35 minutes. CR tried to run special services from crowded stations, but that barely helped in managing crowds.

Also Read: Mumbai Rains: When wishes turn into waterlogging

Look at the weather first
The move angered a lot of commuters. Subhash Gupta, member of a commuters' association said, "CR should have been cautious and not announced a blanket timetable like it. It should have done what WR did by looking at the actual weather and then making a decision rather than depending on IMD predictions, as they are predictions after all."

Crowd at Diva station
Crowd at Diva station

Since CR had decided to rely on IMD predictions, crowds swelled at major stations during the morning rush hour. Eventually, CR had to run special trains, six of which were run by 11:30 am. Around noon, it had announced that the holiday timetable was off. But the damage had been done. Avkash Kumar, a commuter from Dombivli said, "The major chaos was at Dombivli, Kalyan, Ghatkopar and Kurla. Commuters from Dombivli were coming to Kalyan to go to CSMT causing inconvenience to Kalyan commuters by blocking their seats."

Shraddha Mishra, another commuter said, "The Sunday timetable led to chaos at Kalwa as there were no trains there for a long time. Commuters had to walk up to Thane station to catch trains." Prakash Vedak, another angry commuter said, "By the time they restored services, people had suffered enough. I don't know why a bunch of inefficient people are leading a city like Mumbai. There is something seriously wrong with the management."

Commuters in hordes try to walk through Thane station awaiting trains
Commuters in hordes try to walk through Thane station awaiting trains

Venkateshan Kumar, a software analyst who resides in Dombivli asked, "Who took the decision to follow the Sunday timetable? Railway babus need to be shifted away from their plush Badhwar Park Colonies to Kalyan and Kasara to get a real taste of how commuters travel and suffer."

Also read: Mumbai Rains: Central Railway goes for a toss, Western Railway, bus services on track

CR says

Defending the decision, CR's chief public relations officer Sunil Udasi said, "It was a conscious decision to run suburban services on Wednesday on the holiday schedule, in view of the weather forecast by IMD, which predicted heavy rains for the day with a high tide of 4.69 metres at 12.35 pm. This amplitude of high tide and heavy rainfall, as per past experiences, results in severe water logging. The accident on Bhor Ghat on the Mumbai-Pune line resulted in a large number of mail/express trains running out of schedule on July 1 and 2 and several trains had to be rescheduled even on July 3."

Udasi added that the condition of 24 rakes, that had been stranded in the section where water was in excess of eight inches, also had to be ascertained before they were deployed back into service. However, IMD's city deputy director general, Krishnanand Hosalikar reminded CR on Twitter that IMD had not made any such predictions for July 3, which was already communicated on Tuesday.

Commuters suffer

Nazmeen Ibrahim Shaikh, 36, from Mumbra was injured after falling from an overcrowded local between Mumbra and Kalwa stations, while two other women suffered from uneasiness at Thane during the morning peak hours on Wednesday. Shaikh was taken to Kalwa hospital while the other two commuters were discharged after receiving primary medical treatment.

Also read: Mumbai Rains: Central Railways to run 8 special trains from Dombivli and Thane

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