More than 5,000 passengers stood protesting on the tracks at Titwala station on Wednesday morning, delaying 70 suburban services and cancelling 40 of them on the Kalyan-Kasara route. Services were completely halted for three hours between 6am and 9am.
The trigger? The passengers said the 5.55am train to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) always ran late. This happened on Wednesday again, but an express train was given preference even as their local train got delayed by 20 minutes yet again.
Services were stalled for three hours and were running 15 to 20 minutes late through the day; 22 long-distance trains had to be rescheduled. This is the second time in less than six months that Central Railway suburban services beyond Kalyan have been disrupted because of such mass protests.
The issue began when maintenance work between Khadavli and Atgaon on the slow line towards Kasara got delayed to 5.56 am, instead of the scheduled 4.40am. As a result, long-distance and suburban trains on this route were held up for almost 90 minutes. When the CST train finally arrived, the protestors said the long-distance trains were given priority.
“Suburban services have been delayed on the Kalyan-Kasara-Karjat section for the past two years. We have been regularly complaining about this to the railway authorities, but there has been no action yet. The affected 5.55am train is regularly late at Titwala. And, suburban trains in this section are always held up to make way for mail express trains. This is what instigated the commuters,” said Rajesh Ghanghav, president of the Kalyan-Kasara and Karjat Passengers’ Association.
The Central Railway admitted the block had been extended, but maintained that it minimised the impact of the delay. The CR press release said, “The overhead equipment block between Khadavli and Atgaon started at 3.35am and got extended up to 5.56am, delaying the Thane –Asangaon train scheduled for 5.25am. But the public agitation started at Titwala at 6am and went on till 8.55am, because of which 10 suburban trains and one express train was held up.”
The statement said Kasara, Asangaon and Titwala services were running up to Kalyan and back.
“The midnight maintenance block scheduled from 3.35am to 4.40am got extended till 5.55am due to the technical failure in OHE. Meanwhile, we gave halt to one long distance train at Asangaon due to which Titwala-bound train got delayed, but prior to that all four Titwala trains were on time,” said Ravindra Goyal, the divisional railway manager.
After the Railway Protection Force intervened and got the crowds off the tracks, the mob attacked the station manager Lal Kumar and demanded a written assurance that trains will never be late at Titwala. A written assurance was given.