Struggling commuters from far-flung suburbs want those vaccinated to be allowed on locals in next phase, but officials weary about implementation
Railway officials check the tickets of commuters at Malad station on May 9. Pics/Satej Shinde
A few passenger bodies want the railways to allow fully vaccinated commuters to board local trains post the end of lockdown, underscoring that people from far-off suburbs are struggling without their favourite mode of commuting. While officials feel it is a good idea, they say its implementation looks unfeasible for a mass public transporter like the railways. At the same time, commuters’ desperation is reflecting through a sharp rise in ticketless travel.
The lack of access to the city’s lifeline has severely curtailed people’s movement and affected livelihoods.
“Public access to local trains will need to start sooner or later and one can think of allowing all those who have received both the doses to give priority and allow local train travel. The vaccination certificate could be enough proof of this,” said Western Railway Zonal Users’ Consultative Committee member Shailesh Goyal.
“Many foreign countries have offered a number of relaxations and concessions to those who have taken vaccines, especially those who are fully vaccinated. If such a thing is allowed in Mumbai, I am sure it will benefit a large number of commuters and will also encourage vaccination. The railways can consider such a move,” said Himanshu Vartak, consultative committee member for Palghar station.
Differed Siddhesh Desai, vice-president of the Mumbai Rail Pravasi Sangh. Desai said, “No! Vaccination can reduce the possibility but can’t completely close the railways for those who are vaccinated. We will have to open up rail travel for the common man soon.”
Local trains are now restricted to essential workers
Instead, Desai said, they have been pushing for Metro-like infrastructure for the suburban network. “Our issue is crowd, if we install a system like Metro access and control issuing ticket/passes per hour, it could resolve the problem. Without any infrastructure changes, allowing people will invite another wave in Mumbai,” he said.
“I do not think it is a good idea, because then there will be another industry of faking those vaccination certificates. There will be no guarantee that the certificates are fake or original,” said Divisional Railway Users’ Consultative Committee member Mansoor Umer Darvesh.
Railway officials did not comment on the debate on the record but said it would be technically and practically impossible as it would be improper to restrict access to a mass transporter like the railways on certain criteria.