Railways' fight over AC rakes is not cool

Mumbai is set to get air-conditioned locals in the next few months. These have, however, become the subject of a tug-of-war between the Western and Central Railways. Central Railway (CR) is demanding that the new AC rakes be inducted into the Harbour line first, instead of being run on WR’s Churchgate-Borivli route, as per the original plans.

A front page report in this paper yesterday stated that CR officials were miffed over WR getting latest technology first and asked for the AC rakes to be inaugurated on the Harbour Line instead. While the disgruntled officials’ argument may have some merit, it is important that valuable time and resources (which means manpower) are not squandered on these railway line wars. There are so many things the railways have to focus on, including improving announcements on platforms, curbing railway deaths (although there is a large onus on commuters for this). Of vital importance is women’s safety in local trains and quick response service.

The last two factors, particularly, need to be addressed with urgency and great will. Despite measures, we see women getting attacked in locals and, sometimes, there are no police personnel in women’s compartments even late at night. Quick response includes access to medical help, stretchers and ambulances near the platform to help the injured. There is certainly a need for continual improvement and eternal vigilance when it comes to crime on the railways.

WR and CR (the main and harbour lines) need to compete over better safety track records and good emergency response, instead of which line gets first access to better technology. Competing to reduce the number of railway deaths on each line, is also a good goal to aim for.

Having said that, we know that parameters are different for all lines. Even so, healthy competition between WR and CR may be more helpful and efficacious than debates about who gets AC rakes first.

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