Mumbai: Rains turn Central Railway into Crisis Railway

Jun 22, 2016, 08:40 IST | Shashank Rao and Faisal Tandel

Services went awry as heavy overnight rain caused waterlogging on tracks and a landslide at the Parsik tunnel at Kalyan

A day after the rains brought Western Railway to its knees, it was Central Railway’s turn yesterday. Crisis after crisis hit the central line yesterday, with the worst being a landslide near the Parsik tunnel at the Kalyan end — an issue that could go on to become a bigger disaster in the future (see box).

Waterlogging on the tracks led to disruption of services on Central Railway right from 5 am onwards, while the landslide at Parsik tunnel led to further problems later in the day. Pic/Sneha Kharabe
Waterlogging on the tracks led to disruption of services on Central Railway right from 5 am onwards, while the landslide at Parsik tunnel led to further problems later in the day. Pic/Sneha Kharabe

The 42 lakh commuters on the central line must have breathed a sigh of relief on Monday when they remained relatively undisturbed by the rains that had wreaked havoc on the western line. But they had it much tougher yesterday, when services were disrupted right from 5 am until well into the night. As many as 300 trains were cancelled, while over 400 trains were delayed over the course of the day, pushing passengers to the very limits of their patience. Frustrated commuters also added to chaos with a rail roko, when they forcibly stopped a long distance train at Diva station in an attempt to get to CST.

First, waterlogging
The first jolt was received in the wee hours of Tuesday. Sources said they knew they were headed for trouble at 3 am, when the water level on the tracks began to rise by the minute because of the lashing rain. Tracks were starting to flood at Mazgaon, Vidyavihar, Vikhroli, Bhandup and Thane, so officials decided to take the precaution of clamping rail points to prevent any derailments. “We soon started clamping the points that are used as crossovers by trains to switch tracks. This helped us to contain the situation,” said a senior CR official. But clamping the points would also mean that it would get harder to divert trains in case of any problems, a fact that eventually led to more cancellations when the waterlogging began in earnest.

By 5.53 am, the issue went out of hand, and all trains on the central main line had to be suspended. Services only resumed an hour later at 7.03 am, but even then the trains ran half an hour late. Soon, the crowd on the platforms and inside the trains began to swell. “The trains were then running up to 30 minutes late due to the cascading effect,” said a CR official. Even the Harbour and Transharbour trains ran late by 10-15 minutes.

Gradually, the water began to recede once the rain god showed mercy, but it was already time to deal with the next problem. This time, the Mandovi Express came to a halt at Dadar station after its engine failed at platform number 5. This meant the fast line to Kalyan had to be shut. “The problem persisted at Dadar between 9.30 am to 10.15 am. During this time, we diverted the Kalyan-bound fast trains to the slow line between Byculla and Matunga stations,” said Narendra Patil, Chief PRO for CR. The Mandovi Express service was cancelled and the engine was removed from the tracks, but once again, there was a far bigger problem awaiting the authorities.

Landslide at Parsik tunnel
Even as CR officials scrambled to deal with the Mandovi Express failure at Dadar, they got a message about a fresh crisis at the other end of the line. The heavy rains had led to a landslide on the Parsik tunnel towards the Kalyan end. “There was a landslide above the Parsik tunnel, where there are numerous illegal hutments. The debris came crashing down on the wall that prevents debris from falling onto the tracks. The landslide ended up cracking a 50-metre portion of the protective wall as well, and debris slid onto the rail tracks,” said a CR official.

Around 9 am, the Disaster Management team reached the spot and started to clear the tracks. As the work went on, services slowed down between Thane and Kalyan, leading to a huge crowd of commuters building up at Diva station.

Rail roko
Around 12.30 pm, when no trains appeared at Diva station for over half an hour, the commuters got onto the tracks and stopped Panchvati Express, as it was heading towards CST. People tried to board the long-distance train forcibly, and when they couldn’t, they began to pelt stones at the passengers inside. It was after the RPF was called that the situation was brought under control.

Disaster in the waiting
Repairs to the protective wall at Parsik tunnel is yet to be completed, and some of the debris still hangs precariously over the tracks. Work had to be halted at 5 pm, when the mega block was called off, but officials are praying this doesn’t lead to a greater disaster later. “A portion of the debris is hanging dangerously from the edge of the tunnel. We couldn’t continue the work and so block was cancelled,” said a CR official.

Pic/Sameer Markande

Following the landslide, Congress corporator from Mumbra, Yasin Qureshi claimed he had warned the corporation of the risk three months ago. “Three months ago, I had given a written complaint to the TMC engineer, warning about the dangerous situation at the tunnel, particularly during the monsoon. But nothing was done,” he alleged. Thane municipal commissioner Sanjeev Jaiswal has issued a landslide alert, warning of the possibility that the debris might fall on tracks due to the crack in the wall. He has also ordered a technical report on the incident and asked for action to be taken to prevent further problems.

The extent to which punctuality was affected on Central Railway yesterday

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