Lack of preparedness: Western Railway blames state government

Updated: 24 October, 2020 07:13 IST | Rajendra B Aklekar | Mumbai

Following this paper's expos about shortcomings, Western Railway says providing commuter figures, ticketing system and barricading approaches are all state;s responsibility as per operating rules

WR has also put the responsibility of securing its stations, like Borivli, seen in the picture, on the state government. Pic/ Satej Shinde
WR has also put the responsibility of securing its stations, like Borivli, seen in the picture, on the state government. Pic/ Satej Shinde

Defending itself in response to mid-day's report 'Opening soon, but not at all prepared' (Oct 22), WR said it is fully prepared and shifted much of the onus for preparations on the state government, saying this is what was agreed upon in the Standard Operating Procedure in June. This, even as WR's cashless payment options necessitate visiting booking centres and their mobile app for tickets is closed. 

The WR said that it has set up 928 PoS machines for cashless transactions but PoS machines require commuters to be physically present at the booking counter and its ticket booking app is closed.

"The UTS app has been disabled. It will resume operations when the general public is allowed to board trains," a WR spokesperson added.

Crowds at suburban stations have been surging, especially since women have been allowed on trains now. The WR had said on Thursday that they have increased the number of operational ticket booking windows and shifts.

"We want to clarify that as part of the proposed action plan on June 14, a detailed SOP was prepared which enlisted the role and responsibilities of the state government and railways," WR's chief public relations officer Sumit Thakur said.

Thakur said that as a part of the SOP, a maximum of 700 passengers can be seated in a 12-car train as per social distancing norms against the usual 1,200 passengers.

Presently, 704 local services are being run, with a total carrying capacity of approximately 4,90,000. The maximum number of services can be around 1,300, bringing the final capacity to 9,10,000 on WR. This is calculated on the assumption that all locals carry an equal number of passengers throughout the day, which is only possible by staggering work hours.

A railway staffer draws social distancing markings at Borivl railway stationi.PIC/SATEJ SHINDE
A railway staffer draws social distancing markings at Borivli railway station.Pic/SATEJ SHINDE

As per the SOP, the Maharashtra government has to provide the ward-wise number of passengers from various sectors expected to travel during the permitted time slots.

A colour-coded, QR code-based e-pass system that contains time-stamps according to seat availability can also be developed by the government for better crowd management.

"The WR is already operating designated entries and exits at all stations manned by the Government Railway Police (GRP) and Railway Protection Force (RPF) along with the ticket checking staff. The government has to secure stations by deploying local police to prevent unauthorised entries," Thakur said.

He added that railways have taken utmost safety measures to ensure crowd management inside station premises, including sanitisation of trains, markings for social distancing and thermal screening.

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First Published: 24 October, 2020 07:02 IST

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