Why ladies special railway trains are a boon to Mumbai women
On the 26th anniversary of Western Railway's ladies special service, commuters reveal why these trains are a godsend
Passengers, who travel on these trains, say they share a great rapport with each other
Since 2008, Priyanka Redkar, 45, has been taking a fixed local train — the 7.35 am ladies special — from Virar to Churchgate, as part of her daily commute. As she settles into the compartment, familiar faces greet her. It's not long before dabbas are opened, and hot puris and idlis start doing the rounds. For Redkar, her fellow commuters are now family. "Virar locals are usually very crowded. But one finds a lot of peace and space in the ladies special," she said, after alighting at Bandra station, 45 minutes later. "Over the years, we have become very close and share a tight bond," she added.
Twenty one-year-old Rucha Bedekar, a resident of Goregaon, takes the same train to go to Ruia College in Dadar. "It's heartening to see the kind of camaraderie among passengers. They celebrate festivals, share food and have become each other's support system. It is a happy world in itself," she said.
Women commuters board a ladies special train at Borivli station on Saturday morning. Pics/Nimesh Dave
Redkar and Bedekar are among the many women for whom the ladies’ special has become a trusted ferry. And each one, has their own tale to tell. With Western Railway's ladies special service celebrating its 26th anniversary yesterday, mid-day finds out why this train has an important role in the city's commuting history.
Comfort of empty trains
On May 5, 1992, WR launched the first-of-its kind ladies special train. The service that initially ran between Churchgate and Borivli, was extended up to Virar the following year. Since then, eight ladies special train services run on the Up and Down lines during peak hours.
The service provides safe commute for several women. "Most of the trains are packed like sardines. Sometimes, there isn't any space to stand. To add to that, women have fewer compartments in the train. So, this service is a huge relief," said Devi Poojari, 24, a digital content strategist and a resident of Dahisar.
Kanchan Ravindra Kumar, a resident of Kandivli, agrees. "It is comforting to know that the entire train is for us. We can get into any compartment without worrying about space," she said.
'Need more specials'
While female commuters have their moments of daily euphoria in the trains, they feel that the services are inadequate. Currently, four trains run from Virar to Churchgate between 7.30 and 10 am, and four others between 5.30 and 7.45 pm on the opposite direction.
"While I am satisfied with the train service, I think we need more of these. Officials need to increase the frequency," said Jaspreet Wadhera, who takes the special at Borivli station. "They should have more such trains during the peak hours, especially for those stretches that witness huge crowds," added Bedekar. "If we miss the train, we cannot afford to wait for the next train," another passenger Sujata Kamate said.
Kumar has another grouse. "Sometimes, men enter the luggage compartment of the ladies special train. The railway police needs to keep an eye on them, and ensure this stops."
Ravinder Bhakar, chief PRO of WR, said that officials had distributed feedback forms in the ladies special trains on Saturday. "We will try and implement their valuable suggestions as soon as possible," he said.
Total no. of services that run on the Up and Down lines
Rucha Bedekar, Goregaon resident
'It's heartening to see the kind of camaraderie among passengers. They celebrate festivals, share food and have become each other's support system. It is a happy world in itself'.
Devi Poojari, Dahisar resident
'Most of the trains are packed like sardines. Sometimes, there isn't any space to stand. To add to that, women have fewer compartments in the train. So, this service is a huge relief'
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