Many trains cancelled; road traffic also comes to a standstill

Chaos reigned supreme as lakhs of Mumbaikars were left stranded after Western Railway motormen went on a flash strike on Friday. The strike that began in the afternoon was called off by late evening. During the evening peak hour, officegoers found themselves at sea.

A number of trains were cancelled and directed to the yard. At places irate commuters shouted slogans decrying the strike.

Traffic on highways and arterial roads in the city came to a standstill, while in other places it crawled. The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking (BEST) ran special services. However, these buses, packed to capacity, provided little relief from the nightmarish congestion on the roads.

The strike by around 400 motormen started at 3.30 p.m., said P.N. Gupta, general secretary of the Western Railway Motormen Association.

“A section of the motormen has gone on strike. Trains are running, but their frequency is low. The motormen have some internal demands about work and leave of absence. Their representatives were in discussion with the management,” a Western Railway spokesperson told The Hindu over the phone.

Announcements relayed information on the strike to hapless commuters at Churchgate, from where all down trains start. “Due to the motormen’s strike local train services have been interrupted. Passengers are told to take vehicles…,” the Railways announced.

Umesh Modi, a commuter who lives in the far-flung suburb of Bhayander said he had and his colleagues had decided to take the train home at whatever time the services started. “There is a traffic jam outside. There is no point making any alternative arrangement. We will just be stuck in traffic. It’s a waste of money,” he told The Hindu.

One passenger at the Churchgate station had a fall and had to be carried away on a stretcher. There were reports of other passengers falling off packed trains.

The motormen have had long pending demands on working conditions, salary hike and leave structure. Many have complained in the past of their working under duress.

“Our main demand is related to the harassment motormen suffer at the hands of divisional electrical engineer and he should be transferred. Salary hike was not our demand. There were other minor matters which we discussed with the management. They heard us and said they would consider these issues. So we have called off the strike,” Mr. Gupta told The Hindu.