CRs plan of converting of obsolete DC to the energy-saving AC gone off the tracks

AC ki taisi: Current affairs derail Mumbai Central Railway plan

The Central Railway (CR) plan to convert a part of its lines from the obsolete Direct Current to the energy-saving Alternating Current has gone off the tracks.

It has run into a collision course with the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS), the apex authority for safety regulations on CR, after the latter raised some “untimely” queries.

The fight could even reach an inter-ministry level, since the CRS, strange as it may sound, is under ministry of civil aviation supervision.

CR had planned to convert its lines between Kalyan and Thane and the 5th and 6th lines between Thane and Kurla terminus from 1500 DC to 25,000 AC in the wee hours on Sunday.

The conversion will allow trains to run faster and help the railways save energy around Rs.365 Crore a year. By Friday afternoon, the CR was even ready with a spate of print ads on travel restrictions for Sunday.

That’s when CRS (central circle) Chetan Bakshi sent in a query list to CR, which included questions like the number of rooftop travellers, the number of deaths, the status of inquiries and the like.

This infuriated the CR officials, who found the queries ‘irrelevant.’

Still, they replied by 4pm on Friday, hoping that they would get the CRS green signal by late evening. On Saturday afternoon, CR authorities were told their reply has been forwarded to the
office of the Chief CRS (CCRS) in Lucknow.

This effectively meant that the conversion plan could not be carried out during the weekend, since there was no chance of an approval from Lucknow before the end of working hours on Saturday.

“Travelling on rooftops is a crime and there is no reason why a crime should deter modernisation of any system. Western Railways completed its conversion in February 2012 and there were no such queries. Do we stop building roads because there might be an accident on them once in a while?” reasoned a top CR official.

CRS Chetan Bakshi said that CR violated Section 113 of the Railway Act by not inquiring into the deaths of people travelling on rooftop “I found that 70 odd people had accidents and 40 died in the past 3 years. The nod for converting from 1500 volt DC to 25,000 volt AC will now come only when CR starts following what’s laid down by the law,” Bakshi said.

The AC/DC project

For Rs.1,299 Crore, the plan was to change the lines from DC to AC from Igatpuri and Pune towards CST. It has now progressed till Kalyan at a cost of Rs.910 Crore. The lines left are Kalyan to Thane, Thane to CST, the Harbour line and the 5th and 6th lines between Thane and Kurla terminus. The plan now is to finish all these — except Harbour line — by March 2014.