It was an initiative that was meant to enhance commuting consolation in a metropolis the place the suburban rail transit system is jam-packed throughout rush hour. The inclusion of air-conditioned trains was deemed to be a panacea for the commuting woes of lakhs of commuters who journey lengthy distances in stuffy compartments to achieve Mumbai from distant elements of Mumbai Metropolitan Area.
Coverage-makers, nonetheless, have been perplexed over the protests which were sparked by the transfer in elements of Mumbai’s prolonged suburbs similar to Kalwa and Badlapur. The sudden protests and the assist prolonged to the agitators by politicians similar to NCP chief Sharad Pawar have delivered to the fore the angst of many decrease center class commuters who discover these trains unaffordable.
MUMBAI’S SUBURBAN TRAIN SYSTEM
For a linear metropolis like Mumbai, the suburban practice providers play an important position in facilitating the north-south motion of the town’s workforce. Whereas the suburban practice system is used democratically by each strata of Mumbai’s inhabitants, the majority of its customers are the decrease center class and the poor who represent nearly all of the town’s workforce and are pressured to journey lengthy distances to come back to the industrial enterprise districts within the metropolis.
The 2 suburban programs operated by each the Western Railways (WR) and the Central Railways (CR) stretch 319 km. They facilitate inter-district journey in 5 districts particularly Mumbai, Mumbai Suburban, Thane, Palghar, and Raigad. A complete of three,129 providers are operated on the Central and Western line by which presently near 60 lakh commuters journey every day, paying wherever between Rs 5 and Rs 35 for a one-way ticket and Rs 105 and Rs 500 for a month-long season ticket.
In 2017, the authorities determined to function air-conditioned trains within the metropolis. As of date, a complete of 104 air-conditioned providers function within the metropolis by which round a lakh commuters journey every day paying between Rs 35 and Rs 165 for a one-way commute, and Rs 650 to Rs 3,150 for a month-long season ticket.
WHY THE PROTEST AGAINST AC TRAINS
The final grouse of the protestors is that the fares of those AC trains are too excessive and have additionally questioned why the railway authorities are changing regular practice providers with AC rakes throughout rush hour even when the occupancy of the latter is comparatively low as a result of excessive price of travelling.
A day by day commuter of CR, Swapnil Gaikwad (33), who lives in Ambernath and works in a non-public firm as a driver at Bandra Kurla Complicated (BKC), stated that he too needs to journey in consolation and ease however the price of AC native month-to-month move will not be inexpensive. “From Ambernath to Kurla, the price of a non-AC second class month-to-month move is round Rs 315. Whereas the AC native month-to-month move for a similar distance prices over Rs 2,000.How can one afford such an costly month-to-month move?” he requested.
One other day by day commuter of WR, Tejaswi Patne (Kadam), who works in a non-public financial institution and travels between Borivali and Decrease Parel, prompt that at the least first-class non-AC ticket-bearers and passholders must be allowed to journey in AC native trains. She too cited the excessive AC practice fares. Patne stated that for a non-AC second class month-to-month move, she pays Rs 215, whereas the primary class move prices Rs 780 however for a similar distance, the AC native month-to-month move will price her over Rs 1,000. She stated that the price of the season move of non-AC first-class is excessive and the women compartment is just too small, with fewer seats for passengers.
Nonetheless, different day by day service class commuters from Badlapur, Ulhasnagar, who sat within the latest protest in opposition to extra AC trains that had been launched on CR and later needed to be cancelled, cited mismanagement of practice timetable and improper planning and examine by the railway authorities at giant. Commuters Mahesh Deshmukh (34) and Rakesh Nanda (37) each stated that non-AC native trains needn’t substitute the AC ones. Right here’s why. “On the CR route, there’s a night native going in direction of Badlapur from CSMT at round 6.10pm which was transformed into AC native previous to the protest. However since one native was made AC, your complete crowd shifted to the non-AC native practice. This created an outburst. Subsequently, to keep away from such a state of affairs, Railways ought to at all times communicate to day by day travellers to know their wants and AC trains must be launched accordingly, with out disturbing the present non-AC practice providers timing. In any other case, the rift will proceed.”
Nandkumar Deshmukh, president of Thane Railway Pravasi Sangh, stated that the Railways ought to rationalise this change to AC native by bringing in a hybrid system the place a single rake has the choice of each AC and non-AC compartments.
“Railways ought to run a mix of AC and non-AC compartments in its service. Let commuters resolve by which compartment they wish to journey. It’s good that AC locals have been launched however the ticket fare is just too excessive for a labourer, or center class individuals,” he stated.
WHY ARE PROTESTS LIMITED TO CENTRAL LINE
Whereas the passengers of each the Central and Western line are in opposition to the brand new AC trains, the protests have largely been restricted to the previous. The commuters on the Central line route are fully depending on railways to achieve Mumbai. Travelling day by day by way of roadways utilizing personal cab service or by personal automobile will not be inexpensive, given the excessive gasoline costs. The highway distance is almost 39 kilometres simply between Badlapur and Thane. Most commuters journey to Navi-Mumbai, South Mumbai, and the Bandra Kurla Complicated, the place most personal places of work are positioned. Whereas, on the Western line route, suburban places of work have shifted from South Mumbai to Andheri, Bandra, Goregaon, and Kandivali. Quite a lot of residents staying alongside these routes can go for BEST Buses, take auto-taxis, and even the newly launched Metro service 2A and seven between Dhanukarwadi, and Aarey, and the previous Mumbai Metro one which runs between Ghatkopar and Versova. Workplace-goers and commuters produce other inexpensive public transportation modes, in contrast to Central Railways.
HAVE AC TRAINS IMPROVED PASSENGER COMFORT?
Shut to at least one lakh individuals use the 104 AC trains day by day in Mumbai. The deployment of those providers has undoubtedly improved passenger consolation for commuters similar to 39-year-old Sachin Shinde, a frequent AC practice commuter from Badlapur to Thane, who works in a multi-national logistics firm.
“Badlapur and Thane each have develop into crowded stations. To board trains from these two platforms has develop into a Herculean activity. Neglect getting a seat, getting contained in the compartment safely can be a giant problem in non-AC trains these days. Nonetheless, with AC trains, the journey has develop into clean. Now, the one demand that I’ve as a commuter is healthier frequency of AC trains and a discount in fares,” Shinde stated, including that he buys single journey tickets from the net cellular utility fairly than shopping for a season move for a complete month as a result of poor frequency of AC trains on the Central Line.
Equally, Harish Marchetty, one other day by day AC practice commuter from Malad to Churchgate, who works in a non-public agency, stated his commute has develop into stress-free because the AC locals had been launched. These days, even in AC trains, you will note plenty of crowds, he stated. In actual fact, throughout peak hours, commuters may be seen standing by means of their journey, which was not the case earlier. “Travelling in AC native trains has simply not made my travelling expertise ‘cool’ however has given me security additionally. It was worrisome to journey on the footboard as non-AC trains are often jam-packed, with doorways open,” Marchetty stated.
WHAT ARE THE RAILWAYS’ AC TRAIN PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
The Mumbai Rail Vikas Company (MRVC), accountable to hold out improvement and enchancment initiatives, is predicted to acquire 238 AC native rakes below the Mumbai City Transport Challenge (MUTP)-3 & 3A – 47 AC rakes below MUTP3 and 191 below MUTP-3A are proposed to be procured by 2024. They’ll have a life-span of 25 years.
An MRVC official stated the Railway Board will resolve on the procurement of those rakes earlier than a young may be floated. The prevailing AC rakes had been procured by Western and Central Railways from Integral Coach Manufacturing unit (ICF), Chennai.
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WHY DID RAILWAYS START AC SERVICES IN MUMBAI
The AC trains had been put into service following a Public Curiosity Litigation by railway security activist Sameer Zaveri, who misplaced each his legs in a practice accident in 1989. Zaveri’s PIL in 2008 demanded numerous preventive measures, together with closed door native trains to make sure commuter security.
Subsequently, with the beginning of air-conditioned Metro traces within the metropolis, the Railway authorities launched AC native trains in 2017. Zaveri’s PIL was disposed of after the Railway made a submission that it was putting in measures to enhance commuter security, together with beginning AC trains.
Nonetheless, Zaveri feels that whereas the AC trains are a step in the best route, the fares should be rationalised to make sure that all strata of society are capable of afford travelling on these providers.
“The price of season tickets also needs to be lowered like single journey tickets. In any other case, the aim of stopping commuters from travelling on the footboard in crowded native trains will likely be defeated,” Zaveri stated.