Peak hour commuters on Delhi Metro’s Jahangirpuri-HUDA City Centre Line had a harrowing experience after the train they were travelling by developed a fault and broke down in a tunnel on Tuesday. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) attributed the fault to a probable “software malfunction” that led to emergency brakes being applied automatically to the train. The stranded train was carrying 1,791 passengers.
Among the passengers was 21-year-old Geetanjali Juneja, a French language student, who was travelling on the eight-coach Bombardier train between Central Secretariat and Udyog Bhavan when it developed the snag. She recollected that it was around 9-25 a.m. when the train came to a complete halt in the tunnel between the two stations and it was not until 10-30 a.m. that she was evacuated. “After 10 minutes, there was a sudden black-out which cut off the air-conditioning system as well,” she told The Hindu. “I was in the ladies’ compartment and saw some women faint due to lack of oxygen. Passengers were helping each other by offering water and toffees,” she said.
Since the ladies’ coach is the first one behind the train driver’s cabin, Geetanjali said the women passengers tried to contact the driver. “Firstly, he did not open the door. Then he very rudely said he did not have any information. Only after two men came into the compartment to talk to the driver did he admit there was a technical snag,” she said.
“The evacuation team arrived really late and we were told to form a queue to evacuate from the emergency exit at the rear of the train,” Geetanjali said, adding it took 30 minutes to evacuate all the passengers. “Even though the emergency lights were switched on in the tunnel it was very difficult to see and we had to use our mobile torches to make our way out,” she said. “Thankfully, there was no stampede but people were very scared. The evacuation process was extremely slow.”
Meanwhile, the DMRC said their staffers were initially attempting local trouble-shooting repairs to restart the train between 9-24 a.m. and 9-37 a.m. failing which a decision to rescue the stranded train with the help of another regular passenger train was taken. “However, just as the rescue train was emptied of regular passengers and it was ready to move towards the stranded train we noticed passengers emerging on the tracks,” said DMRC’s Executive Director (Corporate Communications) Anuj Dayal.
The metro authorities had to abandon their plans as commuters forced open the emergency door and came out on the tracks and started to move towards the Central Secretariat station which was about 350 metres away, Mr. Dayal said. “As some passengers also entered the adjacent track that is on HUDA City Centre and Jahangirpuri line, we ordered stoppage of trains on that track also as a precautionary measure.”
The snag at Central Delhi sent the entire Metro Yellow line into a tizzy. There was utter chaos at all stations between Udyog Bhawan and Green Park as there were no metro services and people were stranded. “The station completely filled up with passengers waiting for trains. No announcements were made,” said Sandeep Das, who was stranded at AIIMS while on his way to Gurgaon.
The Delhi Metro, however, ran two short loop services between Green Park to HUDA City Centre, and Central Secretariat to Jahangirpuri to ease the rush but they were of little help. During the disruption, trains were running at restricted speed at various stations, which led to bunching of trains on the corridor. “The trains kept stopping at every station between IFFCO Chowk and Green Park. I finally decided to get out of the train and took an auto to work,” said a commuter.
DMRC also cancelled six round trips between Jahangirpuri and HUDA City Centre and four round trips between Vishwavidyalaya and Qutub Minar. Five round trips were delayed and to clear the rush at Rajiv Chowk and Kashmere Gate metro stations, DMRC rushed two empty trains from Vishwavidyalaya to these stations.
The snag-hit train was later taken to Green Park metro station at around 11 a.m., after which services resumed but normalcy returned only by afternoon. DMRC Managing Director Mangu Singh expressed concern on the failure and explained that all metro technical systems are designed in a “fail safe” manner to ensure protection of passengers in case of malfunctioning of any sub-systems. Mr. Singh also appointed a three member enquiry committee to look into the cause of failure and to suggest additional evacuation procedures. Previously, a similar incident occurred in November 2009 when a train came to a sudden halt between Rajiv Chowk and R. K. Ashram stations.