Mumbai: Habitual rooftop passengers on suburban local trains, get ready for the shock of your lives, quite literally. Western Railway (WR) is in the process of completing the long-pending project of switching over to a 25,000-volt alternating current (AC) from the present 1,500-volt direct current (DC) by February 5.
This means that power of extremely high-voltage will be flowing through the overhead cables that supply electricity to the trains. If a commuter comes in contact with the overhead wires or even ventures within a 2-meter range, there is a good chance he will be pulled in, and the resultant electric shock may be fatal.
On Sunday, the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) of Western Circle, part of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, inspected this 60-km stretch, visiting various power substations along the way, causing the diversion of some trains from 9.30 am to 1 pm.
Sources in WR said that the CRS, whose permission was mandatory for the upgrade to higher power supply, was satisfied with the work, and had given a go-ahead for the change to be carried out. "The Railway Board has already permitted us to go ahead with the power conversion. Necessary changes will be made so that upgrade is possible by February 5," said a senior railway official.
Initially, the CRS had asked WR to raise the height of bridges on the Vile Parle-Churchgate stretch before going ahead with the power conversion. However, WR officials had approached the Railway Board and sought a waiver under the condonation clause, which allows them to go ahead with work without compromising safety aspects.
On November 14, when the WR converted power on the Borivli-Vile Parle stretch, General Manager Mahesh Kumar had told MiD DAY that they had identified a method which would obviate the need to raise the height of the bridges. Sources in WR said that that they would be insulating the wires running beneath the bridges, preventing them from causing problems.
Raising the height of the bridges would have taken at least two years, which in turn would have delayed the process of procuring new trains.
The last hurdle
On February 5, a mega block will be arranged on the Andheri-Churchgate stretch, causing several train services to be cancelled and diverted. This will mark the end of the Rs 500-crore power conversion project.The project will also improve the punctuality of train services, make them energy-efficient and allow a greater number of 12-coach and15-coach trains to ply. Long-distance trains can also run continuously on WR, all on 25,000-volt lines, as far as Jammu.
Post-conversion, local trains will be able to achieve speeds of 100 km per hour with ease. The next step would be to convert the remaining nine-coach trains to 12-coach ones, thus augmenting the carrying capacity by 33 per cent.
Scorched and burnt
In the past month, there have been many cases of rooftop travel turning ugly. On January 3, two passengers sitting atop a train received electric shocks while it was at Borivli station. One of them had to be admitted to hospital, while the other received minor burns. On January 12, a 42-year-old man was scorched in Dahisar, when the train was going to Virar.