Central Railway's crush hour solution: 2+2 seating to fight overcrowding in trains

Three coaches with fewer seats that ran on Western Railway in 2005 were taken off after negative feedback. These coaches are now running on Central Railway trains as part of a trial to solve the excessive crowding problem

Don’t be surprised if you see a coach with only two seats on either side when you next board a Central Railway local. Officials are testing three such old coaches, which have only around 60 seats as opposed to the current 100-odd seats.

Also read: Crush hour - 410 suffocated to death in local trains this year

mid-day spotted this old coach with two seats on either side running on a Central Railway train on December 2
mid-day spotted this old coach with two seats on either side running on a Central Railway train on December 2

This correspondent spotted one such coach on a CR train on December 2. Railway sources said the three trial coaches came as part of a Siemens rake that was procured in the financial year 2005-06.

Bhavesh Nakate lost his life when he fell off a CR local during morning rush hour on November 27. Pic/Shashank Rao
Bhavesh Nakate lost his life when he fell off a CR local during morning rush hour on November 27. Pic/Shashank Rao

“We tried it on WR on an experimental basis,” said an official. “But based on the negative feedback, we removed them. We are testing them again now since crowding has become a major issue again.”

Watch Video: 21-year-old dies after falling from packed rush hour local train

Officials said each coach currently carries about 350 people during peak hours, which keeps the axle load around the 16-tonne mark. Representation pic
Officials said each coach currently carries about 350 people during peak hours, which keeps the axle load around the 16-tonne mark. Representation pic

mid-day was the first to report on November 28 about Bhavesh Nakate, a commuter who fell to his death after losing his grip on the grab rail he was hanging on to.

Following the uproar, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu had asked railway officials to look for solutions to the overcrowding problem. Estimates say that during peak hour, 16 people stand in one square metre of space inside local trains.

Officials said they considered several options before settling for the 2+2 seating arrangement. The trials will go on for another month or two and coaches will be introduced based on commuter feedback, officials said. “We are looking at converting a few coaches with 2+2 seating,” said SK Sood, General Manager, Central Railway.

Officials added that the 2+2 seating will help train to accommodate more commuters without endangering them. “We want to get down the density to at least 10-12 people per square metre,” said K Goradia, a member of the Suburban Rail Accident Committee, which was formed by Union railway minister Suresh Prabhu following Nakate’s death.

Sources said the railways had to consider the strength of the axles of the existing rakes while creating more standing room. A local coach can take an axle load of between 16 tonnes and 20 tonnes.

Officials said each coach currently carries about 350 people during peak hours, which keeps the axle load around the 16-tonne mark. If one seat is removed in each row on either side, it will allow 100 more people to stand, taking the capacity up to 450 people. “With 450 people, the axle load will still be under 20 tonnes,” said an official. “This makes it a feasible solution for us.”

Longitudinal seating
Railway minister Suresh Prabhu had recently announced that the railways will also look at a longitudinal format for the seating arrangements. But, railway officials in Mumbai said they are yet to work out a blue print for the same.

Also read: Death due to overcrowding - Central Railway passengers want more trains

Former railway officials said that in 1975, a longitudinal coach model was introduced, which saw tremendous opposition from commuters. Another trial with longitudinal seating was conducted on Western Railway in 1996, but that too failed.

Officials said the technical problem with longitudinal seating is that it will allow 600 people to travel in a coach, which increases the axle load to 25 tonnes, a figure that dangerously overshoots the permissible axle load of coaches.

Empty train crashes into buffer
There was little damage to the buffer, though the train suffered. In the wee hours of yesterday, an empty local train crashed into the buffer of platform 5 at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) station. The incident occurred at around 2.25am, when the empty train was being tested.

Watch video: Mumbai train crashes into platform at Churchgate station

It went about 450 meters outside CST and returned, as brakes and other systems were being checked. It was scheduled as the first train of the morning. Sources said that the guard of this train was allegedly driving the rake — which is otherwise the job of a motorman — who accidentally dashed against the buffer.

“He might not have applied brakes on time and the train was moving at speed of less than 10kmph,” said a CR official. There was little damage to the buffer, though the train suffered. The guard has been suspended and other investigations are on.

“Immediately, the railway officials and staff attended to the incident and the platform was made available from 6.55 am. “The railways minister has immediately ordered an enquiry into the incident,” said Chief PRO Narendra Patil.

Commuters say

Divya Lotlikar, Andheri resident
The seating capacity in trains would reduce, which may not go down well with many commuters. We all look for seats when we enter a train. There’s no harm in introducing it on a trial basis.

Yogesh Dod, Mulund Resident
Even if the seating capacity is reduced, the number of people traveling in a coach will remain the same. Crowds can get adjusted by reducing seats, however, it will not make much of a difference.

Kumar Padmanabhan, Chembur resident
It is a good initiative. However, I personally do not feel that this is the only solution for overcrowding. Trains are anyway packed beyond their capacity in peak hours and hence, reducing seat to tackle over crowding might not be the ultimate answer.

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