Suburban train services remained largely smooth on Tuesday with fewer than expected people commuting on the second day of operations. Around 70,000 people travelled on Mumbai’s suburban network, a marginal rise from Monday’s 60,000.
The Railways had scheduled 362 services in anticipation of nearly 1.25 lakh passengers from different parts of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). On Monday, when Western Railway (WR) and Central (CR) started services for employees engaged in essential services, around 60,000 people travelled on local trains. The muted response was said to have been due to a lack of awareness as the decision to run the trains had been taken late on Sunday night. “We expected more people on Tuesday and were prepared for it,” a senior railway official said.
However, on Tuesday morning, WR saw 8,700 people at their ticket counters during the morning shift, while Central Railway sold around 7,800 tickets between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. For a short period there were queues outside Virar, Nalasopara and Thane. According to a senior WR official, many trains saw barely 400 travellers as against their capacity of 700.
During the evening peak hours, there were queues outside Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT), which Lata Argade, secretary, Suburban Railway Passengers Association, said was due to an issue with scheduling as two Thane-bound trains ran after a Kalyan local at 5.30 p.m. Several people living in areas like Dombivali had to wait and eventually take a Karjat fast at 6.53 p.m. “The system will take time to settle down. There should be more Kalyan-bound trains. Even passengers should have patience since both the State government and the Centre have taken this decision to restart the services,”she said.
Ms. Argade added that there wasn’t much rush in the morning as people typically leave at different times, while all offices shut at the same time. In all, CR and WR each carried around 35,000 people on 200 and 162 services respectively.
Pradeep Narkar, secretary, Municipal Mazdoor Union, said trains were only halting at fast stops, one of the reason for the low numbers among hospital staff as major hospitals such as KEM and Kasturba are walking distance from Parel and Chinchpokli, respectively, both slow stops, as was Sion Hospital. “If the train must only halt at fast stops, then they should provide enough buses at these stations. A similar arrangement should be made for people who live close to slow stops so that they can take the train from Ghatkopar or Thane,” he said. The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) Undertaking ran 2,654 buses on Tuesday and ferried around 5.5 lakh passengers.
However, Subhash Gupta, president of the Rail Yatri Parishad, said fear was the biggest reason why fewer than expected people turned up on Tuesday. “People were still afraid of catching the infection and consider buses to be safer. However, train travel has reduced the load on buses and the queues have become smaller,” he said.