Commuters dangling out of packed buses, some pleading with cabbies and rickshawmen to drive them to their destinations, traffic jams and pedestrians cramming the sidewalks… These sights were common on Tuesday as motormen refused to operate trains through most of the day.
With few options left, railway commuters turned to private road transport, many even travelling in goods carriers. This, in turn, jammed the main roads, including the western and eastern express highways.
“Normally, the journey between Borivli and Churchgate takes an hour by train. But, because we had to depend on other means, it took us three hours,” said Satish Gupta, a marketing executive.
To ensure smooth flow of traffic, more than 1,800 policemen were deployed on the roads. “On Monday evening, we had deployed 1,500 men but on Tuesday we decided not to take any chances,” said Nandkumar Chougule, deputy commissioner of police (traffic).
Police said there were twice as many vehicles on Mumbai’s roads — normally, at any given time, there is an average of 88,645 vehicles on the roads. “We identified the main bottlenecks and stationed personnel there,” Chougule said.
Although the traffic police claimed they ensured there were no jams, commuters said it took more than an hour to travel from one station to the other as roads were blocked for hours.
“There was total chaos; the traffic was bumper to bumper. It took me more than two hours to reach office today,” said Sonal Mehta, a copywriter at an advertising agency who works at Vile Parle and stays at Dindoshi.
“I had to wait for two hours to get a taxi on the overcrowded Western Express Highway,” said Raji Patel, a production manager at a media group.
Chougule said they had issued an advisory to taxi and rickshaw drivers to not refuse fares. “Carpooling was advised for private vehicle owners and we also asked the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport and State Transport for more us services,” he said.