Hail Siemens and more…

Posted on July 10, 2014


It has been almost four months since I had my motorbike shifted to Mumbai, which means that during this time travel by suburban (local, EMU) trains has dropped to an almost non-existent level.

Previously, it was a fixed ritual while going to office: A five-minute walk to Matunga Road, interrupted by an occasional visit to the ATM. Then, enjoy a 330ml bottle of Thums Up, which now will cost more thanks to Mr.Arun Jaitley.

Over the months, it was this drinks break that showed, according to me, one of the most beautiful sights in Mumbai’s suburban railway network.

It’s just an hour before peak traffic crashes into the network, between 4-5pm. The fast locals are not running on full capacity, the crowd is slowly trickling in across stations.

I stand by the refreshment stall at the Borivili-end of Matunga Road and as you peep out towards Churchgate you see the track taking a gentle, minor curve into Dadar.

The section between Dadar-Bandra, for the fast locals, is a high-speed one. Motormen are allowed to hit the maximum 85 kmph through the sector or until Mahim creek, where caution orders may restrict speed due to maintenance works.

The distance between Matunga Road and Dadar is just over a kilometer and the Siemens rake, much superior than its Jessop/ICF can hit the top notch in a matter of moments, depending on how aggressive the motorman is.

With optimum crowd, there is not much load on these rakes that may slow down the acceleration.

So, now, as you wait, you occasionally look towards Dadar and then suddenly you see these Siemens rakes coming to hit you on the face, out of the curve.

You don’t see it coming; there is no impeding warning in the form of a honk. Also these rakes make almost no noise that much load. It is such a smooth process.

The rake simply glides off the tracks, with that occasional clunk. These 12 cars, sometimes 15, zip past you in approximately ten seconds. And then slightly curve again to the left before entering Mahim.

These Siemens rakes are the modern symbol of what Mumbai is. They have been in service for a few years and have made travel so much more comfortable and quicker.

The stretch between Dadar and Matunga Road yields such a sight. The beauty about this is, the rakes start from scratch before jumping to top speed, as if they are fitted with a hyper drive.

Even during peak hours, with legs and arms dangling outside the compartment, these still manage good pace.

You probably will not find any sense in this, or appreciate if you are not a railway enthusiast. But well, you get it or you don’t.

At a time when, farcical promises of bullet trains are made, it would have been more ideal to strengthen the current infrastructure and make existing trains ply faster. The crowd is not going to reduce. But if the existing tracks are made to withstand more speed then additional services to ease the crowd can definitely be introduced.

First up, these Siemens rakes doing 100 kmph tops will cut travel times by around 15 minutes between Churchgate and Borivili.

The yet-to-be introduced Bombardier rakes too will be able to achieve great speeds. At a time when efforts are being put to introduce an AC rake, it would have been better to utilise the labour behind to create an additional Siemens rake (for Western or Central Railway).

The ICF/Jessop rakes have a top speed of 65 kmph and sometimes ply on the fast line between Churchgate to Virar. If they are replaced the network can be easily reworked to better times.

In a nation where populist measures dominate every decision, here I sit dreaming about the things that I think are beautiful, and acting content with what is there. Alas, if I had a choice.