Commuters using four of the city’s busiest stations — Jogeshwari, Goregaon, Malad, Kandivli — may soon be reduced to having only slow trains with Western Railway considering a move to reduce the number of stops of fast trains.
More than 35 lakh people travel on western line’s local trains everyday. FIle pic
If implemented, fast trains between Churchgate and Borivli (both up and down) will not stop at any of these four stations. Of WR’s 1305 services, 119 currently are fast (64 up, 55 down), which stop at these four stations between Andheri and Borivli. Another 600 are slow, which stop at all stations. There are already 14 so-called super fast services, which do not stop between Borivli and Andheri.
The reason for the move is the rescheduling of the WR timetable on January 2, where 13 services were extended beyond their current destinations. Speeds of 11 more services have also been augmented to save time.
Senior railway officials said skipping the four stations would help them increase the speeds of trains to and from Vasai and Virar.
The move has potential to upset lakhs of commuters who use these four stations. Roughly five lakh people buy tickets and season passes from these stations. To put the figure in perspective, 10 lakh people use the 60-km CST-Panvel harbour line. Another potential problem is the fact that WR hasn’t increased services for nearly two years now, thanks to saturation and lack of slots.
In their defence, officials said WR carries 35 lakh people everyday and that the inability to add new services is the main reason for deaths due to trespassing, falling from moving trains or in platform gaps.
“Yes, we are working on the plan,” said Sharat Chandrayan, chief PRO, WR, without elaborating if they have considered the pros and cons.
The idea has been discussed in meetings that were held to finalise the new timetable. Other senior officials mid-day spoke to admitted that the idea is fraught with pitfalls and that they realise scale of the backlash.
“Presently there is no scope of adding any more train services in the system. In fact, this year when the time table was rescheduled, we couldn’t add a single service apart from extending existing services,” said a WR official on condition of anonymity. “(With this idea) we would be in a position to add at least 15 more services and augment capacity.”
Currently, Churchgate-Borivli trains shift to the slow tracks at Santacruz or Andheri to accommodate Virar trains. This costs each train three minutes on an average. “Three minutes is a long time in our parlance, especially during peak hours as trains end up waiting to get signal,” said another WR official.
Experts and commuters were divided, with the former welcoming the move and the latter opposing it.
Kailash Verma, member, Suburban Rail Accident Committee said the idea will help increase services. “Authorities will be able to manage time better and frequency can be improved. But they should increase the frequency of trains running on slow line as well.”
Rajiv Singhal, member, Divisional Railway Users Consultative Committee, said the idea was tried out a decade ago but does not know why it was discontinued.
“It will be useful during peak hours, but then they have to create a ratio where super-fast trains are one-third of the total services,” said Singhal.
Subhash Gupta, President, Rail Yatri Parishad said, “Stations like Malad and Kandivli are densely populated. I suggest there should not be any change in the existing format.”
Time taken by fast train between Borivli and Andheri without halts
Time taken between Borivli and Andheri if train stops in all four stations in between