Mumbai: Railways to open for all soon, but preparations not up to mark

Updated: 22 October, 2020 15:29 IST | Rajendra B Aklekar | Mumbai

Plans are afoot to open local trains for everyone soon, but facts on ground show railways has not utilised the seven-month break to prepare for it, including access control, robust digital payment, or even any kind of crowd management

CR is still in the process of installing access control gates at CSMT
CR is still in the process of installing access control gates at CSMT

Opening soon after seven-month shutdown, yet unprepared. No planning, no access control, and no sturdy online ticketing system as a back-up on Mumbai's suburban railway, say passenger representatives. As officials meet to discuss throwing open Mumbai locals to the general public, is the railways really prepared to handle the crowds that will arrive at stations post-lockdown?

Not really. Indian Railways doesn't look prepared. Two things are a hurdle — no access control to stations and lack of a sturdy digital payment option. The first need to upgrade their digital payment app, open it to all payment modes at mass level and allow multiple channels, instead of just one app, which keeps crashing when there's pressure. I am sure technology will be available. Secondly, stations could have been equipped with access control to restrict crowds," a senior passenger association member said.

Commuters get into a train at Ghatkopar station. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
Commuters get into a train at Ghatkopar station. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

"It is correct that the Railways has literally done nothing on the ground. There was talk that they went to IIT for suggestions, there was talk of colour-coded tickets and many other such do-able ideas, but nothing has taken shape. Tomorrow, if the governments decide to throw open the railways suddenly, how will the railways manage? What will be done with so much of crowd?" former member of Western Railway Zonal Users' Consultative Committee member Shailesh Goyal said.

Give time slots via passes

The government's solution of staggered office timings hasn't shown much impact yet. "We too had given our suggestions. Our issue was not office timing. The main issue was pass holders travelling anytime. Passes should have restricted timings. For example, a red pass with a morning slot of 7.30 am to 11 am and evening slot of 6 pm to 8 pm. We also need station-wise commuter data and access-control like Metro," Siddhesh Desai, vice-president of the Mumbai Rail Pravasi Sangh said.

Passenger representatives said they had suggested issuing passes with fixed time slots to in travel in to commuters. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
Passenger representatives said they had suggested issuing passes with fixed time slots to in travel in to commuters. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

Himanshu Vartak, who is the consultative committee member for Palghar station, said that railways still have time and they should work out a viable solution for all commuters to travel safely, the way Mumbai Metro has managed to do.

National Railway Users' Consultative Committee member Subhash Gupta said that the railways have literally wasted seven months since lockdown with no thought process about managing crowds; he urged railways to take urgent steps.

What Railways says

The Railways strongly itself defended saying things are not so easy and they were already working on multiple fronts besides co-ordinating with the BMC for staggered office timings.

Western Railway Divisional Railway Manager GVL Satyakumar said that one has seen the massive volume of commuters on Mumbai railway and things will depend on how many commuters go each way. Ultimately it is a matter of regulation of crowds which remains a key factor.

Central Railway's (CR) Chief Public Relations Officer Shivaji Sutar said, "We are taking every possible step to ensure social distancing. There are floor markings at every one-metre distance, QR code system, regular sanitisation of rolling stock and station premises, increase in services as against the demand, queue management and opening up of digital payment modes in a graded manner. A committee is working on access control. CR is also working on installing flap gates at Mumbai CSMT and the project shall be ready in a month."

Mar 22
Day the local railways shut down for travel

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First Published: 22 October, 2020 07:12 IST

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