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Rain ready? Not railways

mumbai Updated: Jun 05, 2012 00:51 IST
Kailash Korde

To avoid choking of drains during the monsoon, the Central Railway (CR) recently banned food items wrapped in plastic. But railway sources feel this won’t give any relief to passengers this year. “We have just banned plastic wrappers from this month. There is already a lot of plastic garbage lying on the tracks,” said a CR official. “If the ban is implemented strictly, things could get better next year,” he added.

Many people HT spoke to felt that Western Railway (WR) and the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) should also ban plastic, as most of the drains in the city get choked due to plastic. However, WR officials say there is no proposal to introduce such a ban.

What this means is that your rail commute is likely to be stressful this monsoon, like in the previous years. Almost a week after its self-imposed May 31 deadline, the railway administration in the city is still not rain-ready.

There are around 40 open culverts on CR’s main line, 35 on the harbour line, and 43 culverts on WR. Both CR and WR have claimed they have finished the first round of cleaning of these culverts and de-silting of drains. CR authorities said more than 92,000 metres of drains have been cleaned, while WR officials said they would undertake a second round of cleaning, if required, in August.

HT observed, however, during a tour last week, that things on the ground are quite different. Culverts in the railway areas appear to be properly cleaned, but drains running parallel to the railway lines have not been given proper attention. Many drains are still filled with mud, ballast, muck and garbage. In some locations, overhead equipment and sleepers are lying in the drains.

On the harbour line, many drains do not appear to be properly cleaned. The area around Wadala station is low-lying and prone to heavy waterlogging. But drains flowing towards Sewree or GTB Nagar stations have still not been cleaned properly. Desilting of one of the main drains towards the north of Wadala station was still in progress.

The situation is similar on other sections of CR. In sections such as Sewree to Kurla, Chembur to Mankhurd, and Parel to Kurla, drains have not been cleaned properly. On WR, the drains on the Lower Parel to Bandra section appeared to be full of garbage, muck, and ballast.

What is worse, the railway contractors have left the muck desilted from drains and culverts on the side of the drains. At places like Wadala, Kurla, Mankhurd, Bhandup, Matunga Road, Kandivali, Vikhroli and GTB Nagar heaps of muck could be spotted lying on the banks of drains. Hundreds of bags filled with muck were awaiting disposal at Cotton Green and Sewree stations. This muck is likely to go back into the drains, if not removed before the monsoon.

Both railways confirmed they have carried out joint inspection of desilting work. “Though both have claimed the monsoon preparation work has been completed, it is still in progress,” claimed Subhash Gupta, member, National Railway Users’ Consultative Committee (NRUCC). “Contractors are not meeting deadlines as railway officials do not apply controls on them, as a result the 78 lakh commuters in Mumbai who travel by train every day will suffer during the monsoon,” he added.

Railway officials claim they have identified areas where waterlogging takes place every year, and installed 88 pumps at these locations. However, sources told HT the pumps are not of much use in case of heavy rain. “When there is continuous rain and water logging takes place outside the railway area, pumps don’t help much. The water pumped out finds its way back in as there is no place for it to flow out,” explained a senior railway official.

During the last monsoon, there were many complaints from passengers regarding leakage in suburban locals. Leakage was spotted in many old EMU rakes. “Every year, the railways carry out checks in car sheds to detect leakages in trains and lubricate the doors and window panels before the monsoon,” informed Nitin David, WR’s public relations officer.

Railway authorities also said they trim the trees alongside the tracks every year to avoid damage to overhead equipment (OHE) from falling branches. Besides, railway bridges are inspected for leakage, and proper attention is given towards providing insulation tapes on electrical equipment, they said. Besides, signal units, point machines and motors are sealed before monsoon.

“Every year the authorities spend lots of money and come up with new ways to keep the trains running. This has shown results on WR, where not a single disruption was recorded during the last monsoon,” said Shilendra Goyal, member, zonal railway users’ consultative commmittee.