Mumbai rains: Why one rainy day brought CR to a standstill

Jul 03, 2014, 06:45 IST | Shashank Rao

Officials had kept points, which enable trains to switch tracks, unclamped so as to upgrade overhead lines to 25,000v AC; rains caused them to malfunction, throwing signalling system out of gear near Kurla

If you are wondering why the situation of suburban local trains was so bad in the first real heavy rains that the city witnessed yesterday, here’s one of the reasons why: the equipment which allows trains to switch tracks was not in its regular monsoon position.

Also read: Metro gets its first taste of the Mumbai rains

The unclamped points, when they were submerged with water, caused the signalling system to go haywire, say CR authorities. Pics/Sayed Sameer Abedi
The unclamped points, when they were submerged with water, caused the signalling system to go haywire, say CR authorities. Pics/Sayed Sameer Abedi

So, in yesterday’s downpour, they were submerged and naturally malfunctioned, throwing the signal system out of gear. Why were they not in place? Because CR officials had to keep them that way to convert overhead power lines to 25,000-volt AC power.  

Also read: Mumbai rains: APMC traders sick of flooding in market

The said equipment are called points, which allow a train to cross over to a new line and cause changes in the signalling system. When a train goes over the clamp, it triggers the signal to go red.

Services completely stopped yesterday, forcing people to walk on the railway tracks
Services completely stopped yesterday, forcing people to walk on the railway tracks

In the rainy season, these points are generally in a ‘clamped’ position in order that trains are operated in a smooth manner. However, if overhead power lines are to be transformed into high-power AC lines from the present 1,500-volt DC, these points have to be in an unclamped position. Since rains had eluded the city in June, sources said officials had continued with their power conversion work.

Also read: Mumbai rains: BMC imposes 20 pc water cut on waterlogged city

'Point' of contention
When rains came in yesterday in full force, these unclamped points went underwater, and caused the signals to go haywire, thus preventing trains from shifting tracks and running in a smooth fashion.

“Before monsoon, we clamp these points so that the train services don’t face problems. Due to heavy rains, at least 11 ‘points’ malfunctioned near Kurla, which affected the train services,” said Mukesh Nigam, divisional railway manager (Mumbai), Central Railway. The Vidyavihar-Kurla stretch on the main line and parts of Harbour line saw waterlogging yesterday. Trains came to a halt and people were forced to walk on tracks.

Also read: So, BMC, is this how you were 'prepared' for the Mumbai rains?

Officials then clamped these points between 11 am and 12.30 pm, during which most trains remained stranded. Officials said that these points are used for completing the power conversion process, as trains running on the new system had to manoeuvre these points before heading to the Kurla car shed.

Depressed tracks
CR has also lowered tracks by 5-8 cms near foot and road over-bridges at Currey Road and Matunga stations, Hancock bridge and Kasaiwada, near Kurla station. This, too, is to satisfy the criteria for the new 25000-volt AC line, which requires a buffer space of at least 21 cm between the train’s roof and the base of the bridges.

Photos: Heavy rains lash Mumbai, water-logging in many parts

Tracks near Kurla, Vidyavihar, Bhandup, Chunabhatti and Mankhurd railway stations were flooded. However, CR officials pointed out that tracks at Currey Road, Kurla and Hancock Bridge weren’t flooded. “The influx of water was due to heavy rainfall and some other upstream source. Water flowed with full force onto the tracks,” said a senior official.

The power conversion will likely be completed by August 15, and two newly arrived Bombardier rake local trains are expected to go from Western Railway (WR) to Central Railway. The new trains, procured under Mumbai Urban Transport Project, were to run on WR.

SCLR causing problems?
The newly made Santacruz-Chembur Link Road (SCLR) seems to have added to CR’s woes. Authorities believe that the flyover is at a higher level than the tracks and water from SCLR and the adjacent under-construction buildings flows onto the tracks and the nullah below. This causes the nullah to overflow onto the tracks. Water from upstream Santacruz flows all the way down to Kurla, say CR officials.

“The water came with great force onto the tracks, in proportions much larger than the rainfall received in that area. We are looking at the probable reasons behind this,” said a CR official.

Central Railways  take a beating
48 services on Harbour line and 39 on main line of Central railway were cancelled in the downpour yesterday

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