Mumbai citizens must not act on rumours during monsoon season: Western Railway Chief PRO

Updated: Jun 27, 2019, 17:59 IST | Sunny Rodricks

The Chief PRO of Western Railway chats with mid-day.com about the action plans of the Railways during Mumbai rains, including steps taken to ensure train services are not affected severely by the rains

Mumbai citizens must not act on rumours during monsoon season: Western Railway Chief PRO
Ravinder Bhakar, Chief Public Relations Officer, Western Railway

The monsoon season has arrived in Mumbai and the Western Railway claims that it is well prepared to tackle the Mumbai rains. But is the Railway body's claim true? Will trains run on time during the Mumbai rains? A recent incident, just a couple of days before the onset of monsoon involving the closure of the Bandra East skywalk left Western Railway commuters high and dry. The timing of the repair work raised doubts about the preparedness of the Western railways. 

To get answers to all our questions, we stopped over at the office of the Chief Public Relations Officer (CPRO) in Churchgate to have a quick chat with Mr. Ravinder Bhakar, the CPRO in charge.

Before meeting the CPRO, a quick walk through the suburban railway track gave us a proper perspective of the work that has been done - the railway tracks have been lifted and new additions made to the armoury of the suburban rail services. As part of preparedness, major drains have been desilted and loads of muck removed from the railway tracks, to ensure flooding does not take place on tracks during rain heavy days.

Ravinder Bhakar, took charge as the Chief Public Relations Officer (PRO) of Western Railway in 2016. Bhakar, who is a mechanical engineer from MNIT, Jaipur has been employed with the Indian Railways for the last 19 years. 

Also Read: Heroes of Mumbai: Ambulance drivers battle Mumbai traffic to save one life at a time!

Here are excerpts from the interview with the Chief PRO of Western Railway:

What activities have the railways undertaken this year to tackle the monsoon?

Several new initiatives have been put in place by the Western Railway as part of the preparedness for monsoon this year. In consultation with IIT Mumbai, we conducted a hydrological survey, especially at the Virar-Nalasopara section, to check the topography and the path of the free flow of the stormwater. In addition, we also conducted an aerial survey of the same section to ascertain the constraints for the free flow of the stormwater.

Watch the video here:

Almost one lakh seventy thousand cubic meter muck has been removed from the suburban section by running the muck special trains, by deploying heavy machines like GCBs. 

So, as far as the first phase is concerned our preparations are almost completed. We have already done the joint inspection with the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) and other concerned municipal bodies.

Railway tracks
Over one lakh seventy thousand cubic meter muck has been removed from the railway tracks

A lot of pre-monsoon infrastructure work such as the Metro construction, FoB bridge repairs in Mumbai has still not finished, How big is the challenge for the railways to tackle crowd during Mumbai monsoon?

I agree a lot of infrastructure works, including the Mumbai Metro work and the coastal road project is going on. In addition to that, in our stations and platforms also many infrastructure augmentation work is underway like the building of new FOBs, installation of new escalators, lifts, etc. We have realised that crowd management is a big challenge for Western Railway this monsoon for which we have already made preparations.

Mock drills have been conducted at almost 12 stations, we are totally prepared with our announcement system and with our crowd management system. Our security staff will be in full alert at the vulnerable stations where there is high footfall and especially where major infrastructure works are going on.

Diesel pumps
Heavy-duty diesel and electric pumps are installed for the free flow of stormwater

Are there any flood-prone zones on the Western Railway tracks. If yes, what are the adequate measure that Western Railway has taken to tackle those flood-prone zones on railway tracks?

There are few low-lying areas which we have identified such as Grant Road, Prabhadevi, Dadar, Matunga, Bandra-Mahim section and also Virar-Nalasopra section. Last year we faced problems due to the slow flow of the stormwater, especially in the Vasai-Virar-Nalasopara area. So, this year we have constructed three additional underground drains in these sections for the free flow of stormwater. In addition to this, the track upliftment has been done at Mahim, Bandra area and Bandra-Khar portion of the harbour line as well which was a problem area last year. So, all necessary precautions have already been taken to avoid interruptions in the operations of the train during the monsoon season. 

We have also installed 160 heavy-duty diesel and electric pumps for fast drainage and free flow of the stormwater so that the water is drained out quickly from the tracks and train operations are not disrupted.

The Bandra East FOB towards Bandra station was shut down recently by the BMC. What are the precautions/Initiatives Western Railway is undertaking to ensure that commuters don't suffer from such incidents?

The Bandra skywalk is closed by MCGM, at various other stations also we are undertaking some of the foot-over-bridges (FOBs) for reconstruction and restrengthening. In such situations, definitely, crowd management is challenging so in order to manage the crowd during the morning and evening peak hours, we will be deploying additional staff. The loudspeakers will be used to make announcements so that no untoward incident takes places on these stations.

Rain Guage System
Automatic Rain Guage system

On days when rains will be heavy, what kind of facilities are you planning to ensure commuters are not inconvenienced?

During the monsoon period from June 1 to September 30, we have prepared a special booklet for our staff. The book will have the dates of the high tides and heavy rainfall days. So, our staff will be on full alert mode on these particular days. We will also be monitoring the rainfall situation in real-time, thanks to the Automatic Rain Gauge System which we have installed recently.

In association with the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), this year, Western Railway has installed the Automatic Rain Gauge (ARG) station at six locations of Western Railway. The six stations include Ram Mandir, Bandra, Bhayandar, Mahim, Mahalaxmi, Mira Road, and Dahisar. 

Also Read: Mumbai locals won't stop running in heavy rains, says Western Railway top boss, Anil Kumar Gupta

Are there any helpline number or special trains that Western Railway will run this year for commuters?

We will be adhering to the normal timetable during the monsoon season. But in case there are disruptions, to clear the extra rush, we will definitely run special trains. To ensure that communication is seamless we will communicate with the commuters via several modes such as through our social media handles - Twitter and Facebook, we are also issuing regular bulletins, special announcements are made on the stations so that the commuters are well aware of the situation.

Would you like to advise the commuters on what they should do to make their commute safe and convenient?

I will request the commuters to keep a watch on our social media handles and listen to the station announcement and don't act on any rumours which usually come during this period. Also, we have prepared various instructions which will be passed on and communicated to the commuters through our social media channels, print media, TV channels, etc.

Also Read: Heroes of Mumbai: Railway Gangmen put their lives at risk to keep local trains running

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