30 lakh stranded in Central Railway trains with no info

MUMBAI: There were no announcements made to passengers who were stranded in Central Railway (CR) trains for more than 11 hours on Tuesday following the heavy deluge that gripped the city. The reason for it being that CR trains do not have a system wherein the motorman and motor-guard can communicate with the control room located at its divisional headquarter in CST. This fact came to light on Thursday after commuters complained that they received no information from the Passenger Information System (PIS), via the speakers present in each coach.

More than 30 lakh passengers were stranded in various trains that were marooned mid-journey when water levels gushed into the train’s engines. Passengers like Shreyas Ranade, a resident of Seawoods, who was stuck in the train at Thane said, “I was trying to travel from Kalyan to Kurla, but was stuck in the train for almost six hours.  There were no announcements and I was just sitting there with no information from the railways. The only information I received was from family members and friends.”

Speaking about CR’s partially operational Train Management System (TMS), Divisional Railway Manager, Mumbai Division (CR) Mr.Ravindra Goyal said, “We are still working on the system where the guard and the motorman would get information from  the control room directly.” He further added, “The motorman calls up the control from their mobile in situations where it is needed. We will get the system soon after we sort out some technical issues.” Railway activist and ex-Divisional Railway Users Consultative Committee (DRUCC) said, “This is a very operational issue on the CR. It is one of the most basic technologies that railways must have.”

Pictures of the railway tracks between Western Railway’s Elphinstone Road and Parel stations on Wednesday morning, after the flood waters receded, hold some answers to what caused the trains to stop on Tuesday afternoon and why 24 hours later services are not back to normal. The storm water channels, built to drain water from the tracks, were filled to the brim with styrofoam, plastic containers and wrappers. The choked drains were clearly overwhelmed by Tuesday’s rain in no time.

Mumbai’s railway tracks are among the filthiest in the country. Around nine months ago, Environment Life, an association of volunteers, clicked pictures of the incredibly filthy tracks near Sandhurst Road and Masjid station on the Central Railway and tweeted it to the railway minister. The officials managing the minister’s tweets responded by asking for the location of the tracks, there was no follow up after that. One railway babu in Mumbai asked the volunteers to file a complaint about the garbage. Seriously? Do you need a complaint from citizens to clean up your filthy premises?

Dharmesh Barai of Environment Life estimates that the garbage strewn along Central Railway’s two suburban lines in Mumbai could fill three trains. “The railways do not allow the municipal corporation or other agencies to send cleaning teams to the tracks (this is mainly because of security reasons),” said Barai. “Citizens are also responsible for throwing garbage and allowing sewage lines to empty into railway (stormwater) drains, but the railways seem to be doing nothing to punish the culprits.”

The main reason why the railways have not been able to resolve the garbage problem has been the lack of cooperation between the agencies that manage the Mumbai metropolitan region, which apart from Mumbai, includes other cities and towns. There are different government agencies like the MMRDA (Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority), the BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation), the KDMC (Kalyan-Dombivali Municipal Corporation) and the railways. “They do not co-ordinate with each other though we have been telling them to,” said Subhash Gupta of Rail Yatri Parishad, an association of railway commuters. “The railway lines pass through the city without any kind of collaboration with other agencies. The railways will clean up its premises and ten days later the BMC will clean up the sewers in its area and send the garbage back into the storm water drains managed by the railways.”

Why are the railways allowing sewage from municipal drains to flow into the urgent storm water drains? The two agencies have not met in years to resolve the issue. “Nobody is taking up the responsibility of cleaning up the railway tracks; they are passing the blame,” added Gupta.