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Mumbai deluge: CR motormen couldn’t talk to commuters who were stranded on trains for hours

The CR does not have the required system for direct communication between its control room and the trains except the mobile phones given to the motormen and guards.

mumbai Updated: Sep 01, 2017 09:43 IST
Mumbai news,Central Railway,CR motormen
(HT File)

Even as Indian Railways readies its ambitious Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet-train project at a cost of Rs1,00,000 crore, its Central Railway service lacks a basic system through which authorities can communicate with passengers stranded in a train during an emergency.

On Tuesday, as CR’s suburban services came to a halt as rain pelted the city, there were at least 35 trains stuck on flooded tracks at various places.

Hundreds of commuters were stranded in trains for anywhere between five to 18 hours. The Mumbai fire brigade and the railway protection force rescued about 400 commuters from various trains. Many of them spent the entire night sitting in the dark as the power in the coaches failed — without any communication from railway authorities or motormen of the trains. Had there been active communication system in the trains, the motormen would have informed the commuters the trains won’t move. This exposed a major loophole: The CR does not have the required system for direct communication between its control room and the trains except the mobile phones given to the motormen and guards. But they are not allowed to use the phones while on duty.

Interestingly, the Train Management System (TMS) introduced for Western Railway in 2002 has this communication facility, which it was operating on Tuesday. It also proves helpful in communicating any sort of information in case of disruption and emergency. The CR inducted the system nine years later, but it does not have this facility.

On Thursday, when the Divisional Railway Manager of CR was questioned about it, he said they have TMS without the communication system. Even the new trains plying in Mumbai have a passenger addressing system, but it was not used on Tuesday to apprise the commuters of the situation.

Ravinder Goyal, divisional railway manager, Central Railway said, “In the new TMS, we will install the system, which will have direct contact between the guard, control room and motorman. To inform passengers at stations, centralised announcements were going on continuously.” However, no time frame was given by the railway authorities. The system would cost Rs32 crore if the CR wants to install it on trains running between CSMT and Kalyan.

For the past five years, commuter activists have been demanding announcements inside local trains in the event of a disruption or emergency. However, railway authorities had been assuring them time and again about this. According to sources, the issue is not inducting the feature, but strong opposition from railway unions on the language and other issues.

Nearly 600 CR train services were suspended on Tuesday after heavy rainfall that led to water logging in Parel, Sion, Matunga, Kurla and Kalwa. The water level was not receding owing to which local train services were completely stalled.

First Published: Sep 01, 2017 09:43 IST