Pune-Mumbai railway route to remain shut till Aug 16; railways to buy 10 boats to expedite rescue ops

A food truck and other vehicles brought by flood laying near Omkareshwer temple as the water recedes in Mutha river on Thursday. (Express photo by Arul Horizon)

Due to heavy rainfall, waterlogging and landslides in the Mumbai and Pune pisions of Central Railway, as well as on the Miraj-Londa section on South Western Railway, the Indian Railways has decided to cancel all train services between Mumbai and Pune till August 16.

Among the train services that will be cancelled are the Deccan Queen, Pragati Express, Intercity Express, Sinhagad Express, Mahalaxmi Express, Koyna Express, Ohkha-Tamil Nadu Express, Bikaner-Yeshwantpur Express and Nanded-Panvel Express. Various other train services on this route have been cancelled, short terminated and perted by the railways.

Central Railway (CR) is planning to buy 10 boats this week to expedite rescue operations in situations when trains are stuck at a spot due to floodwater, instead of waiting for disaster response agencies to arrive with boats. The inflatable boats will be equipped with life jackets and will be used to rescue ailing and elderly passengers, besides being used to deliver food packets. In a recent incident, the Mahalaxmi Express (CSMT to Kolhapur) was stuck near Badlapur station after floodwater covered the railway tracks.

We are receiving 10 boats in a week. The boats will be given to the Railway Protection Force (RPF). The RPF will form an Anti Flooding Squad to deal with the floods. They will operate and manage the boats, said CR chief spokesperson Sunil Udasi.

Each inflatable boat will be able to carry five passengers. A senior officer from CR said, When Mahalaxmi Express was stuck for almost five hours at Badlapur on July 28, we realised more needs to be done to ensure faster relief and rescue operations before the arrival of the National Disaster Relief Force teams.

According to a source from the Indian Railways, At nearly Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 2.5 lakh, the boats are quite affordable. The Mahalaxmi Express had left Mumbai for Kolhapur on the night of July 26, but could not travel beyond Vangani, where it reached in the early hours of July 27. Passengers were stranded for at least 17 hours. As many as 1,050 passengers were rescued.

The boats will help us reach on time in a similar situation in the future. We can even reach with relief materials, said Udasi.