Mumbai railway stations: Calmly, chaotic Churchgate

Apr 01, 2015, 08:46 IST | Maleeva Rebello

As part of our ongoing series on railway stations seen through the eyes of commuters, we look at Churchgate, the Western Railway headquarters 

This fast train haven where commuters often ‘come return’ as is known in local train lingo from Charni Road and Marine Lines seeking motion side window seats, Churchgate sees lakhs of commuters everyday.

Peak hours at Churchgate station are frenzied, given its strategic importance. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi
Peak hours at Churchgate station are frenzied, given its strategic importance. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi

Fishy feel
Media professional Bryna Dcunha Braganza who commutes between Churchgate and Ephinstone Road daily says, “Churchgate is a clean station by and large, but every morning the fisher folk transporting their catch make it filthy. They get their catch from Sasson Dock and are running everywhere to enter the station. The fish water spills, so that becomes a problem.”

The ticket counters see huge lines, but there are many smart card machines, too to relieve the stress
The ticket counters see huge lines, but there are many smart card machines, too to relieve the stress

Pratham Vashisht, a stock broker endorses her views, “I have had fish water fall on me as I was rushing to work. The fishermonger was angry because I collided into her and dropped her wicker basket. But I was more upset since I was fully wet and stinking of fish. I live in Goregaon and would have to go back home. I couldn’t afford to go to work stinking like a fish market.”

Southern end on the Western line - Churchgate. Pic/Bipin Kokate
Southern end on the Western line - Churchgate. Pic/Bipin Kokate

The stench of fish lingers till late afternoon. Many are appalled by it. Raju Swami, a banker says, “I am a vegetarian and this smell of fish all around makes me feel unwell. I feel like puking. The stink gets worse, periodically. Authorities need to do something to up the cleanliness in the area.”

Clean and safe
On the other hand, the ambience of Churchgate station is safe and makes teacher Heena Pereira feel secure at all times of the day. The Vasai Road resident says, “The metal detectors and police presence at the station is really good which makes me feel secure. If I come at 6 am or at 12 am, Churchgate always has people bustling to and fro on the platforms.”

But early in the mornings or late at night, Pereira avoids the subways. She says, “While the station and platforms are safe, the subways can be improved in terms of security. The cleanliness is poor in the subways, too as well as the lighting. While Churchgate station is well lit, spick ‘n’ span at almost any time of the day; the subway needs a lot of work.”

Andheri resident Peter Paul Bake who commutes to Churchgate everyday says, “The one thing that sets Churchgate station apart from the others on the route, is the fact that here the toilets are in a good condition. The pay ‘n’ use toilets near the Eros theatre side are very clean and well maintained. The security could be better though as there have been times when the metal detectors have not been working.”

More benches and fans
The station needs more fans and benches for the convenience of commuters says Sam Pancholi, a lawyer. He says, “Platforms 2 and 3 at Churchgate do not have food stalls and so if I have to wait for a train on these, I have to enter from the south entrance rather than use the north subway. The fans above the benches are mostly not working which is a nuisance for commuters.”

Agreeing with him, Ojas Yadav, a businessman says, “I find Churchgate by and large a great station. This one is as close as you can get to an ideal station when it comes to security, cleanliness, services and amenities. Since, the 7/11 terror attacks on the Western Railway there has not been a day when I have seen less than top-notch security at Churchgate. The ATMs, toilets, entry-exit and booking counters as well, as smartcard machines all work well and are clean too.”

For college student Unnati Maru, Churchgate station is a food haven. She says, “The food stalls at the station make some of the yummiest treats which are totally worth a try. I love eating the Chinese, dosa and bhel from the various eateries at the station. I take care so that I don’t litter, but there are many people who spit and throw rubbish on the platform as well as on the tracks. There should be more awareness created about cleanliness and strict fines should be imposed on errants.”

“The middle parts of platforms 2 and 3 need a bridge to connect them. If I take a middle compartment I end up having to wait for another train to come in order to cross and go to platform 4 near which the exit closest to my work place. Crossing the tracks or having to walk towards the ends of the platform is another option. One is unsafe and the other is too time consuming,” says Swami.

Towards a better station
Suggesting some improvements, Bake says, “Churchgate needs more booking counters. There is a lot of rush and the counters have a lot of stress at peak hours. The mart card machines do little to reduce the counter stress. Maybe some more counters would help manage the crowd better.”

“I’d like to see more awareness about cleanliness and action taken against those who dirty the station. Also, better connection between the north side platforms of the station would be good. I would suggest a bridge especially when there are 15 coach trains now. The subways get too crowded, men take the opportunity to push and molest women in the rush. An overhead bridge would surely reduce the stress on the subway,” says Maru.

Vashisht adds, “Compared to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) station which is the Central Railway terminus, Churchgate is much better when it comes to security, cleanliness and amenities. I live at Dadar and prefer crossing over to the Western Railway to take a train even though the Central Railway is more accessible, since I live in the East. Though I have both passes, I prefer Churchgate, the station has a much better ambience as compared to CST. Maybe the cleanliness and subways are one department where Churchgate can improve to make commuting more comfortable.”

Churchgate station is clean, secure and has good amenities. The smart card machines work well and the booking counters also operate adequately to manage the crowds. The indicators and announcements are informative. Getting a taxi from outside the station is easy. There are also a number of buses available and most places are walking distance away from the station. The first train to Virar departs at 4:15 am while the last train to Borivali departs at 1 am from Churchgate station.

Authorities have done their bit to keep the station well maintained, the commuter too is responsible. Littering, spitting and crossing the tracks are big no nos and should be avoided at any cost. The commuter must share the onus to see a better station. People power, to the fore.

This is part of our ongoing series on railway stations seen through the eyes of commuters.

Woes at a glance
>> Fishermongers spilling fish water on the platforms makes the station stink.
>> Fans do not work stressing waiting commuters.
>> Benches are not enough, leaving commuters standing. 
>> The subways are badly lit which makes many commuters especially women wary of using them late in the night and during the wee hours of the day.
>> Many commuters cross the tracks or hop and jump from one train to another to get to the next platform. This though is the commuters fault.
>> The gap between the train and the platform is too much at a number of places which makes it difficult for commuters to alight and get in the train.
>> The metal detectors do not work or are off at several times. These need to be looked at.

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