There was chaos across the Central Railway (CR) and Harbour line on Monday as 150 motormen decided not to do overtime. They were protesting the October 23 death of their colleague R Ramachandran after a bridge collapsed on his train between Mulund and Thane.
Over 140 trains were cancelled and most of the 34 lakh commuters were affected as the disruption caused by the protest continued till the evening peak hour. To add to the chaos, there was a bomb hoax at Dombivli in the morning, which delayed trains further.
The protest was called off in the evening and it was only at 6.30 pm that services began to get back on track. But they were expected to normalise only on Tuesday.
“We are angry that the CR’s disaster management cell took over three hours to rescue Ramachandran. The cause of his death isn’t clear either. We want CR to find out the cause,” said a motorman requesting anonymity. “If a motorman dies on duty, his family gets only Rs 30,000,” added another motorman.
The 150 motormen who staged the protest — they are not part of any authorised association — were also angry at their erratic work hours and CR’s failure to recruit enough motormen.
V Nair, assistant general secretary of the National Railway Mazdoor union (NRMU), confirmed that none of his union’s members were part of the protest. “CR still needs 170 motormen, but they aren’t recruiting,” he added.
At 3 pm, NRMU presented its demands — it too asked for the exact time and reason for Ramachandran’s death to be ascertained — to CR and said it was not part of the protest.
The problems began at 7.45 am at Dombivli station after the Railway Police Force got a call about a bomb on one of the platforms. As a search was launched, services were disrupted as trains were stopped from coming into the station.
As the bomb disposal squad cleared platforms, Bhandup resident Satish Iyer Bhandup said: “I had to wait very long. Platforms became crowded due to the low frequency of trains.”
By 8.45 am, fast trains between Kalyan and Thane were being diverted to the slow tracks, while locals starting from Dombivli were cancelled.
The search continued till 9 am and all this while train services were seriously affected.
“The train schedule cannot be changed till the train reaches Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. This results in a domino effect of delays. We had to cancel 10 trains in order to avoid it,” said CR’s Chief Public Relations Officer S Mudgerikar
CR runs 1,200 train services every day, with each train carrying 5,000 commuters.
Meanwhile, a motorman. P Kumavat, was injured on Monday when equipment in a badly-maintained driving cab fell on him at Asangaon.