With the onset of southwest monsoon, the transport system was thrown off gear in Mumbai on Saturday. Train services crawled on all the three lines, affecting both morning and evening peak-hour commute. Local train services on the main and harbour lines of the Central Railway as well as Western Railway witnessed a delay of 15-20 minutes.
The arterial roads of Mumbai were in gridlock, especially in the flooded low-lying areas. Scenes were no different at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA), Mumbai. While two flights arriving at the airport were diverted, flights operating in and out were running late by 15-20 minutes.
In the morning, train services on the local Central Railway lines remained 30-40 minutes behind schedule following incidents of wall collapse and tree fall on the tracks. “In the early morning hours, debris of a boundary wall that collapsed fell on the railway tracks on the main line between Vikhroli and Ghatkopar railway stations. While it was cleared immediately, services on the slow line were diverted to the fast line, causing minor delays,” a senior railway official said. He was, however, quick to add that the incident happened before the peak-hour commute kicked in.
In another incident, trees fell on the tracks near Kanjurmarg railway station on the Central local railway line. “A span of 30 minutes was given to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for cutting down the trees. Due to this there was a delay of 10-12 minutes ,” Sunil Udasi, chief spokesperson, Central Railway said.
On the harbour line, trains were running late by 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, officials from the Western Railway said despite heavy rainfall, train services continued uninterrupted. “Despite Mumbai suburbs receiving more than 100 mm rain in the morning we could maintain suburban services on the Central Railway during morning peak hours,” Udasi added.
Scores of commuters had a harrowing experience to narrate. Rakshit Kumar who was travelling to Elphinstone Road station from his residence at Mulund complained of major delay in train services. “Trains were running very late in the morning. As streets were waterlogged, I could not hail a cab,” he said. Meanwhile, airlines, including Jet Airways and Vistara, tweeted against delay of flights due to traffic congestion at the airport.
Doctor Shubha Desai, who was supposed to fly to Delhi from Mumbai in the morning hours, said she had left early just to beat the traffic. “I left three hours early for the airport. I spent my time waiting inside the airport lounge because I wanted to escape heavy rain and traffic that ensues. However, despite stepping out early, I had a tough time travelling in the rain.”
Afternoon saw radio-based cabs, including Ola and Uber, surging their fares up to three times, pinching commuters’ pockets. The normal black-and-yellow cabs and auto-rickshaws were no different. “It is a task to find a rickshaw that would ferry you to the nearest railway station during rain. After great difficulties, the driver agreed. However, I had to shell out twice the amount to the rickshaw driver to drive me home from Vashi to Chembur,” said Prajakta Desai who works with a private firm at Vashi.
Defending the surge, Ola issued a statement. “We at Ola are committed to build mobility for a billion people. Through the peak pricing mechanism, the Ola platform ensures maximum availability of the cabs in the days of increased demand. The peak pricing mechanism plays an integral role in balancing the demand and supply to ensure that commuters can book rides seamlessly. The price gets rolled back automatically once the right demand-supply balance is achieved in the areas it has been activated in. The mechanism ensures optimum supply to match peak demand and helps our driver partners to earn more during rush hours.”
Meanwhile, due to prediction of heavy rainfall by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) for Sunday, the Central Railway cancelled the mega-block on down slow line between Parel and Dadar stations. A new platform at Parel, which will divert the crowd from the existing island platform at the station, was supposed to get commissioned on Sunday.
The railways will operate mega block on the harbour line as planned. Also, the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) had to divert buses on more than 70 routes at Linking Road, Bandra, Sion, Hindmata flyover and Dadar due to waterlogged streets.