Commuters take Suresh Prabhu for a ride through Mumbai's railway woes

The Railway Minister boarded a CST local yesterday and was treated to complaints from CR commuters about the ‘poor condition’ of Mumbai’s lifeline; he also met the CM

Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu is no stranger to receiving complaints from rail commuters. He was treated to a fortune’s worth of the same by hassled local train travellers, who complained about everything from the poor condition of the rakes to filthy urinals and toilets. Prabhu boarded a train from Currey Road station — where he was present for a stone laying ceremony for new foot over bridge (FOB) — all the way till Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) station.

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A few commuters offered Prabhu a seat, but he refused and stood all the way till CST. Pics/Datta Kumbhar
A few commuters offered Prabhu a seat, but he refused and stood all the way till CST. Pics/Datta Kumbhar

Prabhu’s train ride was an unplanned event. Sources said he had earlier revised his plan of going to Currey Road and instead performed the stone laying foundation directly through video conference from the Matunga Workshop, where he was present for its centenary celebrations. However, his plans to avoid the trains went for a toss once again, as local politicians complained to the railways that they were deflecting from the original plan. So, Prabhu went to Currey Road station.

A few commuters offered Prabhu a seat, but he refused and stood all the way till CST. Pics/Datta Kumbhar
A few commuters offered Prabhu a seat, but he refused and stood all the way till CST. Pics/Datta Kumbhar

Officials said that the local Shiv Sena party members had already asked members of their party to remain present and so, they wanted Prabhu to come. Finally at around 12.45pm, the minister, along with railway officials came to the station, where the stone laying was done for the second time. Here, he met former Mayor Mahadeo Deole.

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“He greeted me as Mayor, although my tenure ended long back. He also asked me to inaugurate the proposed FOB,” Deole told mid-day. Currey Road station was developed along with the FOB in 1915 for carting horses. After all these years, it is for the first time that a second FOB is being built there. Prabhu will be part of another stone laying for an FOB at Khar station today, and will then proceed to inaugurate a new FOB at Vile Parle station.

Waiting for the train
After the function ended, the railway police cordoned off the area by making a human chain to whisk Prabhu, which made it difficult for other people to walk on the island platforms of the railway station. The train – the 1.04pm from Currey Road station – too seemed to be late by nearly 4 minutes, as railway officials waited for it to come.

And when the Kalyan-CST train, driven by motorman V Pawar chugged into the platform, it turned out to be an old BHEL rake, which the CR has been complaining about for long. Railway officials later agreed they would have rather waited for the newer Siemens rake. As the train halted, Prabhu, along with other rail officials entered the middle first class compartment.

As Prabhu entered and turned right inside the coach, the crowd of rail officials and his security brigade swelled, blocking the concourse. Prabhu and Mayor Snehal Ambekar got inside the compartment along with couple of rail officials, while his security brigade and RPF were holding off people at the door itself. Here, Prabhu interacted with commuters who were seated inside. While people on the doors kept shouting because they wanted to take a ‘selfie’ with the minister, one office-goer managed to get one clicked with Prabhu and then showed it to nearby commuters.

A couple of old men, who had boarded the train from Ghatkopar spoke about the poor conditions of the railway station premises and trains. They commented on the old train, the lack of ventilation from fans and finally, the poor quality of amenities, especially the toilets at station premises.

The commuters later offered Prabhu a seat, but he refused and kept standing all the way till CST. After this, they proceeded to tell him about the condition of seats. The minister then asked the railway officials about this, and the officials responded saying that these trains are in the process of getting replaced with newer ones.

Another rail commuter told him about the condition of toilets, that are stinky and most of the time unclean. Some commuters were waiting to alight at Sandhurst Road and Masjid, but instead, they preferred to continue the journey all the way till CST. Another senior citizen gave a wedding card to Prabhu; the minister greeted the man and gave the card to rail personnel.

Toilet talk at CST
The train reached CST around 1.25pm. From the station, Prabhu made a dash to the Central Railway headquarters, located inside the sprawling station premises. But, he was stopped by another commuter met Prabhu and proceeded to tell him about the condition of toilets.

Prabhu then told the stationmasters and other officials standing there to increase the number of checks and upkeep of these toilets. “The toilets need proper attention; ensure the toilets are cleaner more often,” he was heard telling the officials.

CR has a total of 1,061 toilets and urinals for men and women, while the Western Railway has 790 toilets and urinals. “When there is a greater number of toilets, their maintenance becomes an issue. But then, we have to provide these toilets for public use, despite the fact that it is not our core job,” said a railway official.

Prabhu also held a closed-door meeting with railway officials at CST and later proceeded to meet Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.

mid-day caught up with him when he left for Mantralaya. Speaking about his experience, he said, “I met people inside the train, and I also got thousands of suggestions and complaints from them. We try to address most of them. I am on my way to meet the CM Fadnavis, where the issue of Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet train will be discussed”.

(See box: Prabhu meets CM)

Prabhu meets CM
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and CM Devendra Fadnavis met to discuss various issues, over which they are at loggerheads. The CM said they look into the first phase of Bandra-Virar elevated corridor that would cover over 47-kms on public-private partnership basis. "Subsequently, the state government would look into the prospects of having an elevated rail between Bandra and Churchgate,” said a railway official on condition of anonymity.

Bullet train musings
The Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train – over which again the Indian Railways and Maharashtra government are in a verbal tussle – got some boost as well. The state government that has been opposing its terminal at Bandra-Kurla Complex, supposedly stated that they will look at it. Over the last few days the government has been pressing over the need for the International Finance Center at BKC, where the terminating station was planned for the high-speed rail. Sources now claim that railways have again told the state government that there is a possibility of an underground terminal there.

CST-Panvel corridor to merge with Metro
The CST-Panvel fast corridor could merge with the Mumbai’s metro rail at Azad Maidan. mid-day was first to report about this on March 5. The station would be built underground. Other issues at Eastern Freeway extension were also discussed. Moreover, the makeover of CST station with Shivaji statues also came up in the meeting; mid-day was again the first to report about it on February 19. (Read story)

Minutes of the meeting
>> 15 more suburban stations to have WiFi, similar to the one provided at Mumbai Central station. 
>> Work under MUTP 3 projects to start by 15 August
>> All trains on Harbour line to become 12-car trains by June 16
>> Common ticket for Railway, Metro monorail, bus and taxi are underway
>> Plans of redevelopment at 40 stations having Malls with escalators and modern amenities

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  • Sudip Gangopadhyay22-Apr-2016

    How the commuters of South Eastern Railway can make Prabhuji to take for an unplanned and sudden Suburban train ride through our daily railway woes, which is adversely affecting our life and livelihoods for a long time.Tried to communicate our woes but set aside any redressal, not even any received acknowledgement from Railway BABUs.Please help us, if you can.

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