CR begins demolition of illegal structures along harbour line
Mumbai: Encroachments and human faeces along the tracks of Central Railway’s harbour line have been a long-standing impediment in the way of increasing train speeds. Determined to finally increase the speeds up to 105 km per hour, the CR authorities on November 27 began demolishing the encroachments, removing 165 hutments between Chunabhatti and GTB Nagar stations.
“We removed soft encroachments that were within the railway boundary between these two stations,” said Shivraj Manaspure, chief PRO, CR. “We took help from our railway security forces to remove 140 shops and 25 hutments that had encroached on railway land.”
Sources said that once the encroachments were demolished, garbage and excreta would be removed from the tracks, which would help CR engineers carry out the necessary improvement works on the tracks. The CR authorities intend to make the harbour line capable of taking train speeds up to 105 kmph from the present 80 kmph, which will improve punctuality as well in future.
Sources said that gangmen found it difficult to clean the tracks due to the excreta. “There are stretches along the route where excreta, which deteriorates the condition of the tracks and other assets, has accumulated,” said a CR official. “This is unhygienic for the staff maintaining the tracks. The hutments encroaching on railway land are responsible for this, as the long-distance trains have bio-toilets which prevent excreta from falling on the tracks.”
Every day, approximately 10 to 12 lakh commuters travel on the harbour line, and two to three lakh commuters ply on the trans-harbour line that connects the newly developed business hubs in Airoli and Ghansoli on the Thane-Vashi route. The encroachments and faeces on the harbour line have forced train speeds to be restricted to 30 kmph.
Some of the problematic stretches include Wadala-Kings Circle-Mahim, Wadala-Chunabhatti-GTB Nagar and Govandi-Mankhurd, where encroachments, garbage-dumping and open defecation are rife. Railway officials said the BMC needed to construct temporary toilets until the illegal structures were demolished.
“Once the encroachments are removed, it will take two to three months to finish upgrading the tracks and other inputs. We expect the speed of trains to be enhanced up to 105 kmph by March 2024,” said a senior CR official.
The improvement works on the harbour line are on stretches across the entire CSMT-Panvel route. Sources said that work to improve speeds had started but due to encroachments and political opposition, they found it difficult to proceed. The leap in train speeds will save travel time and provide buffer space to add more services in future.
There is less scope to improve train speeds on the CSMT-Tilak Nagar stretch. However, with upgraded engineering works, train operations from Tilak Nagar to Panvel will benefit commuters, as the distance between stations is longer here. The authorities expect journey time to be reduced by five to seven minutes under normal conditions.
For years, people residing in the satellite town have been complaining about the poor services in the area. “The harbour line has always been neglected,” said Madhu Kotian, president, Mumbai Rail Pravasi Sangh. “There is a tremendous need to improve train services and speeds, as there are no fast train services there.”
CR authorities are addressing other issues that will ease train movement and remove speed restrictions. Permanent speed restrictions are levied due to impending technical or engineering issues on a particular stretch. These can be either the curvature of rail tracks, the topography, the alignment of the rail line or any other engineering flaw.
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