Mumbai Western Railway drama: Commuters protest against new timetable
The timetable has not only added 10 new services but speeded up a lot of new trains to accommodate more passengers in the given limitations
It was a day of protests and celebration on Western Railway Mumbai as high drama prevailed this morning with commuters from Vasai and Jogeshwari protesting against the new suburban railway timetable that came into effect from today and commuters from Virar celebrating the addition of new services, including a ladies special train.
The timetable has not only added 10 new services but speeded up a lot of new trains to accommodate more passengers in the given limitations.
However, social activist Shaina NC said the issue of women commuters at Vasai was a crucial one and that the local railways had misunderstood it. She said matter of women safety and empowerment and that she would not give up and would approach Piyush Goyal and the Ministry of Railways to take up the issue.
The protests were on two counts with lady commuters from Vasai protesting the extension of their ladies special train to Virar and commuters from Jogeshwari protesting against the Western Railways as a few regular halts of fast trains from the station had been scrapped, and replaced with other trains.
Lady commuters at Bhayander claimed that one of the commuters suffered an asthma attack as she was protesting even as the railways kept a close watch on every single movement of trains and passengers and said there was no such incident.
There was more confusion as m-indicator, a private party app, on which millions of commuters are dependent had not been updated and commuters kept waiting with no trains scheduled. The app company told Mid-Day they were in the process of updating the timetable.
The key issues were that the 9:56 am Vasai local has been extended to Virar and ladies of Vasai said it was an injustice as it had been a long established train and now they would not get space to sit. "It is already very crowded and it is bad to snatch our regular train and extend it further to Virar. It will leave all of us standing with no place to sit," Shaheeda Fernando, a regular commuter said.
Lawyer Mrudula Khedekar a resident of Vasai also called it an injustice in a letter submitted to the railways. "There are just four trains that left empty from Vasai for Churchgate and one of it is now gone. We do not get space to enter trains that come from Virar. I met everyone possible from Divisional Manager to activists, but the railways are not ready to listen. We will continue to convince them," she said.
"The local railways do not seem to understand the issue. It is more a matter of women safety and empowerment if they are forced to travel in such pathetic condition, which is unacceptable. We will continue to fight the battle and take it ahead with the railway ministry," social activist Shaina NC said.
To the railways' reply that there was less crowd in the train in the morning, Shaheeda said it was vacation and Diwali time and that the railways should be conducting a survey yet again after vacations to do a head count.
Meanwhile, it was celebrations for Virar commuters as they, supported by MNS put up celebratory boards as new services were added from Virar, including a new ladies special train (that earlier used to start from Vasai). Local activist Manohar Kadam told Mid-Day they had been pursuing the issue for quite some time and they were happy that Virar commuters had got new services and a ladies special train. "It is a Diwali gift for commuters and there are more amenities lined up for Virar, including new escalators ans a wider subway. It is a drop in the ocean, but these new trains have brought a cheer on the face of Virar commuters at least for the next few days. It is a real Diwali for us," he said.
Commuters at Jogeshwari also raised voices of protest complaining that the Western Railway had taken away all their fast train halts from platform four, which was a regular practice.
Jogeshwari railway activist Mansoor Darvesh said that the railways have removed halts of fast trains. "You cannot take away our regular halts and give it to other commuters like this. It gets very difficult in the morning to get inside the trains," he told Mid-Day.
About six halts have been replaced with another six, but the problem is that most of the new halts have been given on the new harbour line platform for which there is no easy access from the east side.
Local corporator Pankaj Yadav said the morning services from Goregaon and Malad halting at Jogeshwari were very beneficial to commuters and taking them away is an injustice. "One should add new services instead of snatching away existing ones," he said.
Western Railway chief public relations officer Ravinder Bhakar refuted the allegations that there was any bias anywhere or that any commuter suffered in the morning.
"The Western Railway has added ten new services and speeded up a lot many, extending others. At Vasai, we have extended the train to Virar as it was underutilised and now more commuters could use it. It is benefitting lady commuters from Virar too. This morning our senior officials travelled in the train personally and monitored the situation. The train was not very crowded by the time it reached Vasai. We have videographed every coach and anyone can cross-check it. As far as Jogeshwari is concerned, we have given additional halts in place of those removed. In fact, 40 pairs of Churchgate Andheri services have been extended to Goregaon, thereby benefitting Jogeshwari commuters. One needs to understand that it is such a saturated system and the railways are continuously in the process of optimising services. Since we have speeded a lot of services and added ten more, there have been some rationalisations as per requirements," he said.
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