Tens of thousands of people could not turn up for work, many more were late by several hours and scores of college students couldn’t take examinations on Wednesday after a fire in two signal cabins completely derailed train services on the Central Railway, which more than 35 lakh Mumbaiites depend on for their daily commute.
Peak hour in the morning was nightmarish, and those who took to the road in desperation ended up caught in huge traffic snarls all along the arterial eastern express highway. “It took over four hours to reach CST from Kalyan,” said Naresh Jagtap, a businessman.
Railway officials admit it could take two to three days for services to return to normal. The fire broke out around midnight in the Kurla and Vidyavihar signal cabins because of a short circuit and was put out soon after, they said. But the signals and crossing points on the track between Sion and Ghatkopar became non-functional, which resulted in chaos in the morning.
A central railway press release claimed there was just a delay of 45 minutes in all services.
But commuters complained that there were hardly any services, and the trains that ran, crawled. Things improved by evening, but trains were still very crowded as even the railways said only 70 per cent of the services had been restored.
Railway officials said the cause of the fire was under investigation.
“A three-member committee, led by the chief safety officer, will undertake the investigation,” said Vidyadhar Malegaokar, chief PRO, CR.