MUMBAI DUMPED 75,000 cubic metres of muck on the suburban railway tracks till December this year, according to Ravinder Goyal, Divisional Railway Manager, Central Railway (CR). Well, wondering how much is that? It’s the equivalent of 75,000 two-seater sofas placed one after the other. And, it’s this muck that has increased the scope of railway fractures, said Goyal. In a meeting Saturday between passengers’ associations and railway officials, how to keep the tracks clean remained the key concern.
Goyal’s remarks come in the backdrop of frequent rail fractures on CR’s suburban network, delaying services frequently in recent months. “Encroachment and garbage thrown on the tracks by residents remain the major reasons for problems with tracks. Through mud pumping, we try to remove as much garbage as possible from the tracks every year but nothing actually helps. An appeal would continued on surely be to tell commuters to stay off from throwing garbage or littering the tracks in anyway,” said Goyal.
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“Our officials complain of having to clean human excreta while repairing tracks. As transport service providers, our job is to offer better commuting services and not clean your shit off the tracks. It is a self-responsibility and enlightenment that commuters must be aware of,” said Goyal. “The muck damages the rail surfaces and makes it brittle. This further affects rail quality and our engineers have confirmed it leads to rail fractures.”
Railway personnel, including gangmen and engineers, also complained of being threatened, hit at and spat on by commuters while undertaking maintenance work. They claimed water is thrown on them, they are abused and cornered while doing their job. “While building another wall in place of a broken one along tracks, we are asked why we are obstructing the passage of commuters. It also forms an easy space for various other activities of the encroachers near the stations,” he said.
The meeting also discussed various other issues: punctuality of services, passenger amenities needed at some stations and cleanliness of platforms. Members demanded more services between Kalyan-Kasara and Kalyan-Karjat stations. Maintenance and free toilets at stations, re-scheduling pattern of long-distance trains to fit more suburban services and betterment of the public information system to alert commuters about delays at all stations were other concerns raised by association members.
The meeting comes after commuters at Titwala station staged a protest last Wednesday against delay in early morning services because of a technical fault. The protest followed earlier agitations by commuters at Badlapur and Diva stations, demanding punctual services.
“The problem is that beyond Badlapar station, the time gap between two trains is huge. We are demanding more services during morning hours and punctuality,” said a member.
The CR runs 300-400 extra trips by local trains against its capacity of 1,350 trips in a day. Officials said along with managing extra services, minimal time given for maintenance of rakes adds to the woes.
“A congested suburban network at present demands running of both suburban, express and freight services together without compromising on anyone. The pressure on infrastructure development is too high and railways are always at the receiving end as far as offering travel services to commuters is concerned,” Goyal added.
“Trespassing and level-crossings also remain the other problems affecting punctuality of services. Our continuous suggestion has been to ask the authorities to stop the movement of commuters at level-crossing gates in the morning and evening peak hours. This could guarantee better punctuality,” he said.