Aug 9, 2009

Trains crash in Mahim

Just saw on NDTV news that 2 locals crashed in Mahim. This is strange.

In 1999, in one of the sessions during initial training in Siemens, the railways division senior manager had said that Mumbai locals have never had an accident due to faulty scheduling. That was true till today.

When the bombs went off in 2006, Western railways started service in 6 hours or so. Mind you this was not minor damage, these were 7 bombs across the line. The human tragedy was immense...incalculable in fact, but what railways did to fix the things was something to be proud of. As a proof, compare the time required by Spanish rail or the London metro in similar situation.

Accidents before that were more because of human mistake. But this one seems to have had a simulation or an algorithmic problem in scheduling. I don't know which trains these are but the following is common knowledge,
- Mumbai local trains (And I think all trains these days) have proximity sensors, they stop when another train is close.
- The schedules worked out are first put in simulation to ensure no blocking, excess queuing etc. is optimized.
- Mumbai local's motormen have had a very good reputation, they don't do mistakes often. And if they do, systems and processes are robust to take care.

Then what happened?

1) I think it is the pressure to increase trains, get the maintenance done in a rather small window during weekends, ever increasing number of passengers and an infinitesimal possibility to add to the already amazing service level.

2) Or was it something more worrisome? Lapse in quality checks? Substandard sensors and dysfunctional backup system?

I hope we get to see the root cause analysis.

One holistic solution is to improve other towns in terms of business readiness (that is power supply, infrastructure and other similar factors) so that they take some of the load of Mumbai. I know this sounds theoretical but that is one way to manage the situation.

What do you think? Give other feasible alternatives to handle this bigger problem faced by Mumbai and other large cities of our nation.

- Sid

Link to the news:


Anonymous said...

I agree that this is the first time I've read a news about locals crashing in Mumbai. As for comparison with international Metro systems, however, I remember reading that the frequency of trains in London, Tokyo etc is less than 1 min, and there are hardly any mishaps. So ours system may be reliable and robust but not sophisticated enough I think.


Siddharth said...

@Paddy -
I agree on the frequency of service but do consider the points of blocking and multiple services (local, inter city, multi stop) that Mumbai locals have to manage. I don't know about Tokyo, but in London (and now in Delhi) the metro rail lines do not have as much blocking. Also the load carried is far higher in Mumbai.

I was only illustrating the efficiency when I gave the resumption of services example.



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