Over 1,000 passengers were stranded at Chennai Central Railway Station and adjoining suburban railway stations on Thursday evening for more than an hour, when track signals failed to work.

While it is unclear what really happened as Southern Railway officials and field staff gave contradictory statements, commuters said they were extremely inconvenienced.

“I came to Moore Market Complex at 3.20 p.m. to board an EMU for Avadi. Railway staff told us there was a signal problem and trains had been delayed. It was only at 4 p.m. that services resumed,” said S. Palanivel, a commuter.

J. Saravanan, who had come to the city from Erode, said that he initially thought it was only a minor delay. “I had to deliver an important document to an advocate in Perambur by 3.45 p.m. But due to the delay I only got there by 4.30 p.m. The advocate had left by then,” he said.

Three express trains including Chennai-Thiruvananthapuram Express and Chennai Central-Haldia Express, which depart at 2.45 p.m., were delayed by an hour. Many other suburban trains were stopped at various stations.

According to Southern Railway officials, a few staff members switched off the signals following a difference of opinion over a Railway Board’s order with regard to maintenance work.

“We were asked to switch off the signals during maintenance work. Despite telling senior officials that this would affect signalling, they did not listen to us. So we just followed orders,” said a source.

Police however said that a few signal workers barged into the control room and damaged a panel that contained signal wires.

“They were angry that new staff members had been posted to the control room while senior employees were still working as field staff. They were protesting this move,” said a police officer.

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