PUNE: The Central Railway has deployed a special team to watch over the ghat section during the monsoon. The 32-member team of track maintenance experts (known earlier as gangmen) has been tasked with monitoring the 29km stretch between Lonavla and Karjat. The hilly region is prone to landslides and rockfalls, which often affect the movement of trains.
According to senior railway officials, they have taken special precautions this year. “Last year, we had carried out a survey of the entire area using drones, especially mountains and rocks. The surveillance was repeated recently, and based on those high-resolution images, we have taken action. Loose boulders have been chiselled or strengthened,” central public relations officer Sunil Udasi told.
According to officials, about 370 personnel work in this section, not counting the crack team of track maintenance experts. “These 32 men will be on alert round-the-clock, and will constantly patrol the tracks. They will identify any problems and fix them. These men will play an important role as they know the ground situation better than the other officials,” Udasi added.
In 2017, there were multiple incidents of boulders falling on tracks. In one instance, a boulder punched through the roof of a coach.
Three passengers aboard the Hubli-LTT Express were injured after the boulder from an adjacent hillock came crashing down inside the coach in the incident that took place last August. As no one sitting on the seat, there were no fatalities.
This year, the officials have a contingency in place. “The up and down railway lines in this section have been augmented by a set of tracks in the middle. This is the contingency line,” Udasi said. “In case of damage to the up or the down line, trains will be redirected onto the middle line so that train services are not interrupted,” he explained.
Another measure put in place by Central Railway was constant camera surveillance. “There are several tunnels on this stretch. We have ensured that all of them have CCTV cameras installed. Officials at nearby stations have been directed to constantly monitor the tunnels and trains passing through this area. We have also ensured proper lighting in these tunnels,” he said.
Harsha Shah, president of the Railway Pravasi group, said officials need to be on their feet constantly, and act quickly in case of an accident. “This stretch is dangerous and prone to landslides and boulder-falls during the monsoon,” Shah said. “While most of the area comes under the Mumbai division, officials from the Pune division shouldn’t shrug off responsibility and be alert at all times, ensuring quick action in case of an accident,” he added.