Mumbai: Harbour line comes to a crashing halt after three days of 'Christmas break'

Updated: Dec 27, 2017, 21:27 IST | Rajendra B Aklekar

Activists allege negligence as commuters are left confused with disruption, even as there were no updates from railways

Harbour line services completely collapsed yesterday after three days of frequent disruptions due to block work taken to link the new Uran line to the Harbour line with Christmas as the deadline. The work finally took a toll on train services as the overhead wire got entangled with a train's pantograph at the site where work had been going on. While activists are crying negligence and shoddy work, thousands of commuters were left in the lurch, confused over the unexpected duration of the disruption.

Commuters walk along tracks after Harbour line services collapsed
Commuters walk along tracks after Harbour line services collapsed

There were no updates from Central Railway, including on its social media accounts, about what had happened and by when things would be fixed. Following criticism, the CR, late in the evening, announced that they would inquire into the incident. Railway officials said the pantograph of a Wadala-Panvel train got entangled at Belapur's platform number 1 at 9.40 am. Due to this, overhead wires on the adjoining CSMT-bound side tripped. While the CSMT services resumed at 9.55 am, the Panvel-bound side was restored for traffic only at 1.02 pm. Harbour and trans-harbour line services were terminated at Nerul during the disruption. During this period, 14 services were cancelled and 16 were partially cancelled between Nerul and Panvel.

Commuters wait for Harbour line services to resume
Commuters wait for Harbour line services to resume

Complete collapse
"I was at Nerul station; the disruption was for so long that I had to take alternative transport to reach just the next station — Belapur. Auto drivers immediately rose fares from Rs 60 to Rs 200. And the station staff had no idea when the work would get over. It was a terrible time for commuters," said Surekha Rane, a commuter from Nerul. Navi Mumbai Municipal Transport buses came to the rescue and ran a few additional buses between Nerul and Panvel from highway to highway and to the stations, and obviously, they were jam-packed. While the disruption stretched for over four hours, with hundreds of commuters walking the track or taking other available public transport, resulting in scores of cancellations, the CR claimed the disruption caused only 14 cancellations.

"The disruption seemed never-ending, it was that long, and hundreds of commuters were affected. The people sitting at the headquarters are not aware of the reality. The top managers don't seem to have control over what is happening on the field. They should've issued regular updates for commuters," said Subhash Gupta, former member of the zonal railway committee.

People queue up for buses and other transport
People queue up for buses and other transport

Social disaster
The social media accounts of both CR and the divisional railway manager were silent on and during the disruption and only put up updates after it was over, that too giving vague answers to the few who posed specific questions. "What is the use of having Twitter and other social media accounts if there are no service updates on them? Railways across the world take pride in giving prompt service updates via social media. Here, there is a tendency to avoid. We need to grow more mature and learn the use of social media effectively. When you run such a big system, there are bound to be disruptions. The skill is in communicating promptly," said Sharon Dias, a social media professional and an affected commuter from Nerul.

Belapur resident Ashish Ganotra said, "Every commuter knows the announcement and indicator systems on CR are a flop. Prompt announcements made are never heard at stations due to poor quality of loudspeakers and overlap of local and central announcements. Indicator screens at many stations are non-functional or show skewed alphabets." A railway spokesperson said, "Prima facie cause of pantograph entanglement is being inquired into."

Damage control
CR will take up an emergency block to fix its botched work for more than 48 hours on platform number 2 at Belapur station from 2 am on Wednesday to 2 am on Friday; 34 trains will be cancelled over this duration. However, 34 special services will be run — 18 Panvel-bound, 10 Vashi-bound, four Nerul-bound, and two Mankhurd-bound. A CR spokesperson said some technical issues needed attention, and hence, the block was extended.

14 Number of services cancelled, according to CR

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