Mumbai: The face-off between the Maharashtra government and the Ministry of Railways over the running of local trains is causing trouble for daily commuters in Mumbai. This has affected over 60 lakh common passengers, who have already been hit hard amid the COVID-19 situation for the last seven months, as the Railways has not given permission to run these local trains.
Two days ago, the Maharashtra government wrote a letter to the Railways asking it to allow common people to travel on the local trains. The Railways, however, raised certain queries that were remained unanswered, the reason, the permission to run the locals is pending.
Maharashtra’s Home Minister Anil Deshmukh has flayed the railways for not allowing the common people to travel in the local train stating that a complete-time schedule has already been sent. According to the schedule, common people should be allowed till 7.30 am before the first local train starts. After this, commuters should be allowed to travel from 11 am to 4 pm and after 8 pm till the last local train in the night.
According to the state government, this will not only ease the congestion during peak hours and also facilitate the implementation of coronavirus guidelines in the local trains.
On the other hand, the Railways has said that this will make it difficult to manage the crowd, asking the state government to make an App like one made by the West Bengal government to control the crowd of passengers.
According to the Railways, even if they run back as many local trains as they used to run before their lockdown, only 22 lakh to 24 lakh passengers can be accommodated amid Coronavirus guidelines, while in Mumbai, about 45 lakh passengers have been traveling daily on Central line and 35 lakh on the Western line.
In such a situation, what will happen to the remaining 60 lakh passengers? Railways, therefore, asked the Maharashtra government to decide which of these should be allowed to use the local trains.
Currently, as many as 704 local trains are running on the Western Railway route in Mumbai, and 3.95 lakh passengers are traveling on them are associated with essential services and those who have been allowed to board these local trains. On the Central Railway route, 706 local trains are being run in which about 4.57 lakh people are traveling.
Earlier on a normal day, 2560 passengers used to travel on a local train, and this went up to 4500 during the crowd increased. In the wake of Coronavirus guidelines, a local train can currently accommodate a maximum of 700 passengers. Prior to the lockdown, 1367 local trains were running on the Western Railway route, in which about 35 lakh people used to travel, while on the Central Railway route, about 45 lakh people used to commute on 1774 local trains.
According to the Central Railway, even if they start all the local trains, only 12.40 lakh people will be able to travel due to social distancing. If all the local trains are run on the Western Railway route, then only 9.60 lakh people will be able to travel.
Since the number of passengers traveling on the Central and Western Railway routes is 80 lakhs in Mumbai, how will the remaining 55-60 lakh commuters be able to travel? The Maharashtra government has no answer to it.
The state government, however, said that it has already made travel schedules for trains, but will the offices or factories be able to adjust according to this schedule.