Suresh Prabhu wants to know reason behind over-crowding in Mumbai locals

After the unfortunate accident video which went viral a few days ago, the railway administration seems to have woken up abruptly, resulting in a flurry of activity by the Railway Minister. The media has actively taken up the issue. I hope this results into some meaningful improvement. However as things stand now, there are little hopes. The committee set up is full of MPs who never travel by trains. Commuter groups are under-represented in the committee.

DNA has a detailed article on this issue today. Click here to read it. Some excerpts from the article with which I totally agree:

“Why does the railway minister need a committee to tell him why Mumbai’s suburban locals are so crowded. The number of people in Mumbai are increasing by the day but the number of trains remain the same; and travel is still predominantly in the CST-Churchgate direction in the morning and towards the suburbs in the evening. What extra will a committee tell Mr Prabhu,” asked Bhandup resident Manish Chaturvedi.

“For years the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC) has been making plans of new lines, the railways has been studying crowding and then what comes out of it? Nothing more than a nice report which neither the state or the railways has any plans to implement. So what will a new committee do,” asked a senior official.

“Every single Mumbai project must have a timeline of 3-5 years. Beyond it, the project is useless as the crowd surge would have made it redundant,” said officials.

The other bet is new technology, like under-slung traction motors to increase the capacity inside coaches. With four motors in every 12-coach train and five in every 15-coach train, more than one coach in a 12-coach train and almost two coaches in a 15-coach train are taken up by these motors. “It is a waste of capacity and in a system like Mumbai, where every bit of infrastructure has to be used to negate the massive crowds, it’s completely unacceptable. It is imperative that local trains adopt a technology where their motors are arranged in the under-body of the rake, known in railway lingo as under-slung mounting. It will free up space in local trains by anything between 12% and 15%,” said an official.

Staggered office timings
It was an idea railway minister Prabhu spoke about during a press interaction in January this year. However, officials almost unanimously called it impractical and impossible. “You cannot expect a city to change its timings. Mumbai for over 100 years had its commercial areas in the southern tip. That couldn’t be changed after all these years; how does the minister expect timings of travel of commoners to change,” asked an official.

All these points are so true!

I would like to add that developing robust alternative modes of public transport is equally critical. This is something MUTP is not focussing on. I had written a postĀ about it 6 years ago (link to the post: https://mrvcmania.wordpress.com/2009/10/08/mutp-or-murp/). After all, there are limitations to how much the suburban railway can expand. Over reliance on a single mode of transport too can be a disadvantage in case of any failures.

Loksatta, another daily, has extensive coverage of the issue today (in Marathi). Here are the links to those reports:

http://www.loksatta.com/mumbai-news/committee-established-to-review-the-local-train-accident-1166168/
http://www.loksatta.com/mumbai-news/central-railway-not-in-fever-of-automatic-door-in-local-train-1166152/
http://www.loksatta.com/mumbai-news/high-court-slams-maharashtra-government-and-railway-administration-1166137/
http://www.loksatta.com/mumbai-news/article-on-mumbai-railway-rush-2-1166036/
http://www.loksatta.com/mumbai-news/article-on-heavy-school-bags-1166035/

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