Monsoon Disruptions on Mumbai’s Ghat sections: The 4th Line Imperative

The month of July this year has seen unprecedented disruptions on the ghat sections on Central Railway’s Mumbai division.

A slew of events including derailments, boulder falling onto the tracks, landslides and flooding of tracks made life miserable for passengers and railwaymen alike.

Date SectionCause of disruption
01-Jul-19 Karjat -Lonavala Derailment between Jamrung and Thakurwadi
11-Jul-19 Kasara -Igatpuri Landslides between Kasara and Igatpuri
11-Jul-19 Karjat -Lonavala Boulder fall and landslides between Thakurwadi and Monkey Hill Cabin
11-Jul-19 Kalyan -Karjat Flooding at Neral
18-Jul-19 Kasara -Igatpuri The derailment of a trolley of 2nd coach of Gorakhpur Antyodaya express over Bhima viaduct
27-Jul-19 Kalyan – Karjat Mahalakshmi express stuck for over 12 hours due to flooding of Ulhas river near Badlapur
27-Jul-19 Konkan Railway A number of trains regulated due to waterlogging at several stations of Konkan Railway’s Ratnagiri region

This raises a question: What needs to be done to fix the problems that plague the Thull Ghat (between Kasara and Igatpuri on the northeast line) and the Bhor Ghat (between Karjat and Lonavala on the South East line)?

Alignment

The ghat section between Kasara and Igatpuri (Thull Ghat) consists of three lines- two uni-directional and one bi-directional. The up line from Igatpuri towards Kasara and the down line from Kasara to Igatpuri are both uni-directional while the midline between the up and the down line is bi-directional. That is, trains can be sent and received in both directions on the mid-line.

Same is the alignment on the Bhor ghat between Karjat-Lonavala. The up line from Lonavala to Karjat and the down line from Karjat to Lonavala are uni-directional while the mid-line is bi-directional.

Traffic in normal course

All trains going uphill on the Thull and Bhor ghats are assisted in their ascent by the use of banker locomotives pushing the train from the rear. Two exceptions to this rule are the Rajdhani (on the Thull ghat) and the Pune -Intercity (on the Bhor Ghat) which are powered by two locomotives in the push-pull mode ( one at the front and another at the rear) and hence do not require bankers.

Karjat sees uphill movement of about 45 passenger trains a day plus goods traffic while Kasara has an uphill passenger train movement of about 40 plus goods traffic.

The bankers which push them uphill are detached at Igatpuri / Lonavala. They are then sent downhill for pushing another train. This means, for every movement going uphill there are two movements downhill -the pairing train and the bankers. Banker locos are also used as braker locos and attached to a few trains coming down the hill. This is done for longer rakes -especially goods and 24- coach passenger trains.

CR’s plan of action

To ensure smooth train operations during the monsoon, CR announced track maintenance works on the south-east ghat section (Bhor Ghat) between July 26 and August 9. As a result, a few trains have been cancelled/short terminated/diverted.

A slew of measures such as scanning of boulders to remove vulnerable boulders, Canadian fencing at vulnerable locations to prevent boulders from falling onto the tracks besides tunnel portal extension at 6 tunnels are being done.

Stationary watchmen at 19 locations with portable control phones, bolting of boulders, besides construction of catch drains, installation of 60 additional CCTV cameras and 24*7 patrolling of vulnerable locations are also being done.

 Disruption

During monsoon, it was observed that traffic was stalled for a few hours at least until the disruption was cleared. For instance, uni-directionality of two lines on both the ghat sections actually proved a bottleneck. Besides, the approach to the bottom of the ghat section was also disrupted due to flooding as in the case of the Mahalakshmi express.

Hence, many trains had to be diverted via the Panvel -Karjat single line section leading to bunching, detention and loss of punctuality. However, such an option of diverting trains does not exist on the northeast line.

Though there are crossovers in the ghat section allowing trains to switch from one line to another, the traffic has outgrown the line capacity as on date and any disruption due to rainfall hampers rail operations.

Possible solution

Traffic on the ghat section has increased manifold and one cannot wish away downhill banker movements. Hence it is imperative to construct the 4th line on both the Thull ghat and the Bhor ghat.

 In the long term, another alignment between Kalyan and Kasara say via Murbad besides doubling of the Panvel-Karjat route as already envisaged would ease traffic on the main lines.

This, if done, would stand IR in good stead.

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About the Author: Raghavendra Rao

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