Major technical snags on the main line of the Central Railway (CR) brought peak-hour services to a grinding halt on Friday morning, affecting nearly 40 lakh commuters.
Suburban services were affected for at least three hours — around 50 trains cancelled, 13 stopped between Thane-Diva and more than 100 delayed — following overhead equipment failure on platform number 1 at Thane at 9.53am.
There was another overhead equipment breakdown at platform number 2 between Thane and Kalwa, which completely shut down train operations on the slow corridor till 12.30pm.
This is the third incident in less than 10 days and fifth since April, where CR services have been disrupted during peak hours.
“The problem started with the pantograph near Kopri. As we have one overhead wire stand from Mulund to Kalwa, the wire at creek bridge also snapped,” said a railway official, requesting anonymity.
With no clear announcements, many commuters jumped onto the tracks and started walking. Meanwhile, the crowd at Thane station swelled, with people waiting for services to resume.
Confirming the failure, a Central Railway press release said, “The pantograph of a Thane-bound slow train broke down near Thane, disrupting the suburban slow services from 9.53am to 12.20pm. During this period, all slow trains were diverted to the fast corridor between Vikhroli and Diva. Because of the incident, 14 full services and 6 services were partially cancelled.”
Railway officials blamed the weakened overhead wires and lack of requisite maintenance for Friday’s mess.
Around 40% of contact wires (crucial part of the overhead equipment) in the CR suburban section are below the requisite thickness of 15mm.
The ministry of railways had directed the railway board to form as team to examine the problem of frequent electrical overhead equipment breakdown and prepare a time-bound action plan to avoid recurrences of such incidents.
SECURITY BEEFED UP
A rumour started to do the rounds that angry commuters had stopped the trains. The railway authorities immediately called for additional security to avoid violent protests, like the one witnessed in Diva in January.