At night,when Mumbai locals are stabled for four hours across the 60-km stretch between Churchgate and Virar,red ants crawl up the rakes and damage electronic equipment of Public Address (PA) system,ceiling fans and lights. At least one rake failure due to ants is being reported monthly on Western Railway (WR),said a senior railway official.
The menace has been detected at Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) across rakes,said an official. PCBs are thin chips comprising components essential for the functioning of an electronic device,in this case the PA system,ceiling fans and lights inside a moving train.
Large quantities of dead ants have been found on PCBs and inside cables of the PA system. Ants cause short circuits and the system malfunctions. Ants are also eating into the insulation of cables, said an official.
Measures are being taken to control the damage. Checks are being conducted to safeguard equipment, said Sandeep Silas,divisional railway manager,WR.
The unusual problem was noted late last year on WR with at least three rakes getting affected every month. A baffled administration asked maintenance staff to look for a solution. The staff used ant repellent powder. Gamaxine powder is sprinkled regularly around the PCBs and near cables. Thin brushes are used to sweep away dead ants to avoid damage to equipment,officials said.
While financial loss is yet to be ascertained,a railway source said,The warranty period of most rakes is almost over. The damaged equipment will have to be purchased,resulting in losses.
While Central Railway is not facing the problem,it is learnt that Southern Railway,which covers Kerala,Tamil Nadu,Puducherry and parts of Andhra Pradesh is also grappling the issue for the past two years.