It was a very stressful Sunday for commuters, as the Western Railway enforced a mega block to complete conversion of its electrical traction from Direct Current (DC) to Alternating Current (AC).
Mumbaiites struggled to cope with the complete closure of local train services between Bhayander and Bandra. Additional services organised by the railway administration and BEST were inadequate, and commuters were seen chasing autos and taxis - which in turn demanded extravagant fares.
What made matters worse was that the Central Railway also enforced a mega block in some parts, a usual practice on Sunday.
Rakesh Bhiyani, a Meera Road resident arrived at Lokmanya Tilak Terminus in Kurla from his native village on Sunday morning, and needed to go to Meera Road. "Taking advantage of the block, taxi drivers were demanding exorbitant fares, ranging between Rs1, 000 to Rs1,400 to ply in western suburbs. I chose to travel with my luggage to Thane via the CR, and then took a bus to Meera Road."
Commuters in the western suburbs beyond Borivli were in for even more trouble as local transport bodies in Meera Road and Bhayander did not run any additional bus services. Bhayander resident Sunanda Khapre had to travel for nearly two hours in a BEST bus to reach Borivli. "The Western Express Highway was congested with traffic. It was horrifying to travel on an overcrowded bus, which was moving at snail's pace."
Complaining about the WR block and the ensuing chaos, Milind Kulkarni, a Thane resident, who was stuck at Bandra, said, "If WR had planned such a huge mega block, at least CR should have run services normally. It would have given some relief to commuters."
However, WR officials claimed that they completed the mega block ahead of time, keeping commuters in mind. "The block was completed at 3.10 pm, well ahead of its scheduled time of 4.30 pm. The trains started running normally after the block," said Sharat Chandrayan, chief PRO, WR.
Around 500 workers carried out the conversion of the DC to AC traction, between Vile Parle and Borivili, on Sunday. The new technology will save WR Rs13 crore worth of power a year. WR aims to complete the remaining phase between Vile Parle and Chruchgate by March 2012.