CR’s Mainline to Switch-over to AC power on Sunday – 40 train services to be cancelled every hour

Need for speed: Central Railway to switch over to alternating current tomorrow. 40 Central Railway services to be cancelled every hour from Sunday, as the switch from 1,500-V DC to 25,000-V AC will force trains to crawl at 15 kmph at nine spots between CST and Thane; this means cancellation of services and, of course, even more crowded trains

Mumbai: The power system upgradation on Central Railway (CR) will have some shocking results for commuters delayed trains and large-scale cancellation of services which will result in locals being even more crowded. The reason? the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) has deemed that the speed of trains at nine spots between Thane and CST cannot surpass 15 kmph when the new 25,000-volt system is put to use. According to officials, this restriction will force them to slash 40 services an hour during peak hours, a massive cut for the already overcrowded suburban line.

Central Railway’s main line will switch to the 25 KV Alternating Current this weekend as the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) gave the go-ahead but has laid down speed restriction to prevent any untoward incident.

Officials will complete the conversion from 1,500-volt DC to 25,000-volt AC on the intervening night of June 6 and June 7. Once this is done, the troubles will begin. The Commissioner of Railway Safety has mandated a speed restriction of 15 kmph at the nine locations, mainly underneath Road Over Bridges (ROBs) and Foot Over Bridges (FOB) on this route. The switch over to AC had been held up between CST-Thane because of lack of clearance from the CRS due to safety concerns and absence of rakes that can run on AC traction.

CR general manager SK Sood confirmed, “We will carry out the switch on the Saturday night. Even though speed restriction have been imposed at some stretches, it will not have impact on the punctuality of the trains”. Railway officials have to maintain the prescribed gap of 4.27 metres between the tracks and the overhead wires, but with a higher voltage system in place, the buffer between the power lines and the bridges is not enough. These locations are near Carnac Bunder, Hancock bridge, Currey Road, Matunga, Sion, and Kurla.

CRS (Central Circle) Chetan Bakshi said, “On the slow corridor, the speed restriction is 85 kmph and on the fast corridor the speed should not exceed 90 kmph. We also have adequate AC compatible rakes to ensure smooth running of services.”

The Siemens rakes can clock more than 100kmph. There are speed restrictions at nine stretches due to height restrictions (inadequate gap between OHE and roof of train, and OHE and base of road overbridges across tracks). At some places, the Siemens rakes will not exceed 15kmph.

At nine stretches, the speed restriction has been imposed because of height restriction (due inadequate gap between the OHE and roof of the train and OHE and base of the road over bridges crossing the tracks).  CR GM said, “CRS has pointed that there are issues with gradient of the OHE but this will be rectified over period of three to four months.” The speed restriction will also get relaxed after the monsoon.

The CRS said the height from the base of the FOB/ROB should be 250mm from the OHE wires, and similar clearance is required between OHE wires and train rooftops. With the Siemens rakes, clearance available is only 190mm, as against 250mm. The clearance level is slightly better at 200mm but not adequate.

Sood said, “The CRS has pointed out issues with the gradient of the OHE, but this will be rectified over three to four months.”

The speed restrictions will be relaxed after the monsoon. CR undertook test-charging of the AC power in December 2014. Part of the railway network, from LTT-Thane till Kalyan and beyond, has been converted from DC to AC.

Only slow, no fast

Currently the average speed on is 60 kmph on the fast line although the permissible speed is 100 kmph and 38 kmph on the slow line. With the severe clampdown on the speed, punctuality will go for a toss. The result? Several train services will be cancelled and the ones that will be run will be even more packed than usual.

“It will be a testing time for us next week,” agreed a CR official.Sources said that the average speeds will come down to 20-25 kmph, as trains will be bunched behind one another. “Although these are only nine locations along the 33-km stretch, accelerating and making up for lost time will be tough,” said a CR official.

As per the schedule, the time that is supposed to be taken to travel between CST and Thane is 58 minutes in a slow train and 37 minutes in a fast train. Officials expect that 16-20 minutes will be added to this because of the speed limits from Sunday. In case of technical failures which CR is no stranger to this will go up further.

Sources said that currently, on an average, around 15 train services operate per line per hour. CR has two fast lines and two slow ones. The speed cut is expected to cause hourly cancellation of around 10 services during peak hours and seven during non-peak hours on each line. This means 40 services will be off the tracks every hour during peak hours a brutal curtailment by any standards.

Railway officials claim these problems will continue for at least a week once the power upgradation is done. They are also looking at making technical changes in the EMUs, which could include tweaking the air springs, overhead wires, double insulation of cables right below the bridges and even lowering tracks, depending on the need.

Official speak

“We will be following the suggestions made by the CRS. We realise that the speed will come down to 15 kmph at certain locations, but within a week it will be increased to 30 kmph. This would be maintained during monsoon and after that, it shall be increased to 50 kmph,” said S K Sood, general manager, Central Railway.