We can ferry only 22 lakh commuters daily: Central Railway, Western Railway tell Maharashtra
Both suburban organisations respond to state government call, saying besides capping of passengers, the state has to develop technological solutions to streamline crowds
Known for its extremely dense crush load and crowding, Mumbai's lifeline will now be able to ferry only about 27.5 per cent or 22 lakh passengers (12.4 lakh on Central Railway and 9.6 lakh on Western Railway) at full capacity instead of the usual 80 lakh amid COVID-19 protocols.
Responding to the Maharashtra government's call overnight to open local trains for the general public, the Mumbai railways on Thursday said they were ready to do so, but with a passenger cap and subject to the development of technological solutions discussed with the state government to streamline crowds.
Commuters in masks at Churchgate. PIC/BIPIN KOKATE
Rejecting hourly ladies' special trains, the railways said both CR and WR had created additional capacity for women commuters and hourly specials will only create an artificial surge and accumulation of crowds at stations.
What CR said
CR in its response said, "In pre-COVID regime, CR was running 1,774 local trains daily ferrying 45 lakh passengers with an average occupancy of 2,537 passengers per train. It was not evenly distributed as maximum passengers were travelling in peak hours between 7 am and 11 am and from 4 pm to 8 pm with occupancy going up to 4,500 passengers per train.
On an average, CR carried 2,537 people per train in pre-COVID times
"Presently, 706 suburban trains are being run ferrying 4.57 lakh passengers with social distancing. As per COVID-19 protocols, a safe number of passengers per local train would be 700. So, even if we start all 1,774 services, we can transport a maximum of 12.4 lakh passengers daily. The state government would need to take a call on means of transport for the remaining 33 lakh passengers."
CR added it will provide all statistical inputs and that a meeting to address this should be called at the earliest.
What WR said
The WR's response said, "In pre-COVID times, WR was running 1,367 local trains daily, ferrying 35 lakh passengers with an average occupancy of 2,560 passengers per train, unevenly distributed. Presently, 704 suburban train services are being run, ferrying 3.95 lakh passengers… If we start all 1,367 services, we can transport a maximum of 9.6 lakh passengers daily."
Both the railways urged the state government to address the segregation of passengers, enable social distancing through technological solutions and support of the police.
WR added that it is running six ladies' specials in addition to the reservation of 23 per cent seats for women in regular trains.
'Go ahead and resume trains'
"The responsibility of controlling COVID-19 numbers and treating patients is that of Maharashtra government. Knowing this, the state government itself asked railways to resume local trains, then what is the railways' problem? They should just go ahead and throw the railways open and let the state government manage the rest," Subhash Gupta, member of National Railway Users' Consultative Committee said.
Essential services employees in masks are seen at CSMT. PIC/ASHISH RAJE
Transport expert Ashok Datar, on the other hand, adopted a more cautious tone. "Providing everyone access to local trains is indeed a great step but it is fraught with serious problems. We must not allow unconditional access. No metro or bus system can match local trains in popularity and contribution to economic activity. But let's prescribe basic conditions such as no free-for-all, allow hourly women specials, insist on staggering office hours (start with government offices). We need to make buying tickets easy through the internet or shops near stations. Staff must ensure that nobody enters/exits stations without masks," Datar said.
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