CHENNAI: Frequent disruptions in Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) services – the worst in recent times being on Sunday for over four hours – have been the cause of untold misery for commuters in Chennai in the past week. Though signal failures have been blamed for these disruptions, the railway authorities are yet to put a finger on the real problem. Inquiries in this connection pointed to various factors, ranging from melting and rupturing of copper cables that carry power to the signal poles, to pilferage of the metal (copper), as contributing to the menace.
According to sources, copper cables are laid below the surface along the railway track to supply power to the signal poles. These cables are connected with aluminum boxes at which point a portion of the cable comes to the surface. In the event of the cable coming in contact with fire – there are several instances of indiscriminate burning of garbage dumped along the railway tracks by rag pickers or urchins or even railway staff – it begins to melt, hampering the supply of power to the signals.
Theft of the valuable copper cables, which is said to be rampant, is cited as another reason.
Sometimes, the cables are ruptured by tamping machines, engaged to pack or tamp the track ballast to make it more durable, and work involving JCB machines compound signal failure, albeit rarely.
When contacted, a senior official with the Signal and Telecommunication Department of Southern Railway stressed that steps were being taken to nab troublemakers who attempted to steal copper cables.
“Work involving tamping machines on the tracks is carried out with necessary precautions. But a few contractors using earth movers meddle with the copper cables, leading to signal failure. However, we attend to it immediately,” the official added.
It may be recalled that signals were subjected to testing on the Beach-Tambaram section on Sunday. The unannounced testing threw the suburban train traffic out of gear during the weekend.