The falling safety standards in the over-saturated Mumbai suburban system was once again to the fore when a Central Railway Harbour Line local overshot the platform after going past a red signal at Bandra station on Thursday evening. The lapse, Signal Passing at Danger (SPAD), is considered one among the most dangerous operational lapses.
According to officials, the CST-Bandra train that arrived on platform No. 6 at 5:24pm overshot the S-57 starter red signal by one coach. The train had to be 'backed' into the Mahim yard. This procedure was completed around 5:50pm.
The drama that emerged later was even more surrealistic with the senior WR and CR officials inquiring into the matter not being able find the motorman of the train—JG Jejurkar from CR's motorman cadre—in either Bandra or Mahim. His cellphone had also been switched off.
WR authorities soon contacted the CR safety department, the divisional electrical department and the train's guard, RK Mishra, and asked them to locate Jejurkar, who was later traced to Sion hospital in a disoriented state. He had been admitted with high BP.
Jejurkar joined CR as a shunter in 2000, became a goods driver in 2002 and got promoted to the motorman category in 2005.
In its June 7 edition, DNA had highlighted the issue, especially on Western Railway, where SPAD cases have been on an upward spiral along with problems of trains overshooting stations and halting after several coaches have crossed the designated platform.
The railway ministry recently cracked the whip on SPAD offences and recommended dismissal as the fittest punishment for motormen/train drivers involved.
As per figures available with DNA, the number of cases of SPAD in WR's Mumbai division saw a rise from three in 2012-13 to a very worrying 11 in 2013-14. The first two months of the new fiscal have, however, been clear of SPAD cases, said sources.
Cases of trains missing the platform, overshooting in railway parlance, in Mumbai division continues to give authorities sleepless nights. As against 18 cases reported in 2013-14 (average of 1.5 cases per month), the first two months of the new fiscal, April and May, have already seen 5 cases, the average rising by 2.5%.
While motormen, on condition of anonymity, said the rising stress levels over track-crossing was the main reason for SPAD, authorities blamed it on lower concentration levels among motormen.
"In a system where each train carries around 3,500 people, and trains lining up one after the other, a mistake can be catastrophic. There is no other way to implement rules but with a zero tolerance," said a senior WR official.