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'Faults are more visible in Mumbai'

Thursday, July 19, 2018
Photographs by Azad Shrivastav

...says Sanjay Mishra, Divisional Railway Manager, Mumbai Division, Western Railway when asked about what makes the suburban system a tricky
one to manage. Here's more from his candid conversation with Afternoon D&C's Jagruti Verma

With two months into the job as the head of Mumbai Division of Western Railway, Sanjay Mishra has witnessed two unforeseen incidents, the Gokhale Bridge collapse in Andheri and the flood situation at Nalasopara. Responding to whether dealing with these incidents was overwhelming, he says, “Personally, I have witnessed worse situations, including accidents, where we had to be at the site of fault for three days straight. So, all of this is not something I am entirely new to.” However, he adds, that every little fault on the suburban system of Mumbai attracts attention as it is too visible. Previously, Mishra has been a part of the team responsible for running the suburban network of Kolkata. When asked about the difference between the two, he describes the one in Mumbai as being highly intensive as well as extensive in nature. “The implication of even the slightest of failure is far reaching,” he adds.

So, do these differences make it difficult to manage the area under jurisdiction as a new person heading a division? Mishra is quick to deny the difficulties, stating that the basic structure of the railways is same across the country. With his experience of handling Operations and Commercial Departments in different capacities across various Indian Railway Zones, we asked him to tell us about the changes he wishes to bring in the system. “The important part to bring in changes is to understand the system first. I feel I will take at least six months to understand the nuances of this system,” he says, describing the lifeline of the city.

The decision to seek help from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay has drawn flak for bringing the shortcomings of the Western Railway to the fore. Mishra responds to this, saying, “Sometimes it's important to get a perspective from experts who don't belong to the same system.” However, why IIT-B, we asked, given how many of the engineers working with the Western Railway are actually IIT graduates anyway. To this, Mishra says, “It is true that we have many IIT engineers in our team. However, it is important to note that the experts we have approached are professors at the institute,” adding that the railway engineers have been in the system for long enough to be used to it and there are chances of overlooking the smaller things. With IIT, comes a fresh, third party, independent perspective as well as new technology.

While talking about the suburban system, Mishra talks about how there are certain capacity constraints that the officials have to deal with. Though there is high demand that is ever increasing, there is only so much space and time to match it. Awaiting nod from the Commissioner of Railway Safety, Western Railway is trying to increase the speed of trains between Churchgate and Borivali. However, even if it comes through, the move will only decrease the travel time by seven minutes. We asked Mishra if this will indeed have a big impact on the schedule of services. “Seven minutes is a long time on the suburban network of Mumbai as here, every second matters,” he says, adding that the move can help them get some buffer time as well as add more services.

Talking about the Nalasopara flood situation and the damage that came along for the railways, Mishra said that there was absolutely nothing they could have done to avert it. “The whole area was flooded and one can't expect the railway tracks and the area around it to stay untouched,” he says, adding that the railway authorities always try to work in co-ordination with the different municipalities to be prepared for the monsoon. However, the preparation can only help contain the damage but not eliminate it because there are many factors at play, including the topography of the city and suburbs.

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