For the past 25 years, B Sebastian, Chief Controller of the Mumbai suburban railway section, has been there to ensure that Mumbai’s lifeline goes on without any glitch.
Getting himself out of the control office while it pours during monsoons is not a luxury for him. He said, “I have never enjoyed Mumbai monsoons like the rest,” he said. Set for his retirement in May, next year, Sebastian says managing train-running is a roller-coaster ride.
The control office co-ordinates with other railway departments, including operations and engineering to check on movement of train services.
“There is immense pressure. We have to balance the movement of suburban as well as mail express train running on the same tracks. In 2005 deluge, many railway officials including me did not go home for four days. But I have never allowed such pressure to affect my work as any wrong decision could bring the train services to a halt,” Sebastian said.
In Mumbai division, he is fondly known as the time-tabling man of the Central Railway (CR).
“Sebastian is well-versed with the timing and position of each train. We have often relied on his knowledge about the suburban train running to bail us out of troubled days which he does happily,” a senior railway official said.
Railway officials claim Sebastian remains a great help while preparing yearly time table of train running on the suburban section. He is often credited with the expansion of night corridor block in CR that increased the time dedicated for track maintenance between five-30 minutes for different sections.
“Making a time-table that suits the requirements of train running for each of the 40 lakh commuters is tough. We then prioritize what forms the need that year and make suitable changes. For example, recently Mumbai has increasingly grown towards the north and so we introduced shuttle services between Vadala-Panvel on the harbor line and Dadar-Thane, Dadar-Kalyan on the main line in the last time table,” he added.
Within ten years of being the chief controller, Sebastian was awarded the Minister of Railways (MR) award in early 2000 for running trains with minimal delays when Chahtrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) railway yard was re-modelled to increase train capacity.
He recalls running trains during the conversion to Alternate Current (AC) from Direct Current (DC) on CR in 2006 was a challenge.
“During DC-AC conversion, I took great care to ensure trains run as per their electric traction. I had to micro-manage position of each of the 131 trains and its trips to avoid any error. I often find myself returning to control office if I am on my way home just to redress an error that has disrupted train running,” he added.
In his exhaustive career, Sebastian believes he has learned how to manage multiple duties, including personal work.
As a parting message, he believes CR has cut down overall commute time for commuters and offered more trains than before though it cost punctuality.