Why Mumbaikars targeted their lifeline?

No radical changes in suburban railway systems leave commuters high and dry

GN Bureau | January 2, 2015




They have every reason to protest. Mumbai’s rail commuter is most harassed. The ever-increasing hurdles in commuting adds to the stress of Mumbaikar. Friday’s spontaneous flare up was waiting to happen. Incidentally, railway minister Suresh Prabhu is from Mumbai and currently in the city.

Lakhs of commuters were stranded after suburban rail services on the Harbour and Central lines were disrupted during peak hours after violent public protests. It all began around 8.30am on the Central line when commuters got down on the tracks between Diva and Mumbra to protest against delayed services. The protests soon spread to other areas and continued for hours as motormen went on a flash strike.


A few commuters and motormen (engine drivers) were injured in the violence after incidents of stone pelting was reported in some areas. Commuters disrupted both long distance and suburban train services.

The services were delayed in the morning on the Central Railway due to disruption in power supply in the overhead equipment (OHE) wire during the peak hours. Following this, the public began agitating and got on the tracks to protest the regular failure in the suburban services.

Mumbai commuter has suffered long because it is a linear city. Electric suburban trains were introduced in Mumbai in 1925 and even after 90 years there is no improvement in the quality of travel, both in first and second class.


There has been an increase of nearly 1,000 times in the number of people travelling by the suburban rail since 1950. But people have to bear sweat smell, get trampled and shoved in square inch space and arrive at a destination in proper shape.

 This is big challenge assumes very difficult proportions when the monsoon hits the city. Encroachment along rail line and unscientific planning submerges tracks leaving the commuter stranded in trains on platforms. Often, the passengers get down from the rain and wade through waist-deep water.

Over all these years, administrations have either just extended the length of the track and platform or added more bogies to the suburban train. Other than these linear corrections nothing much has happened on the ground.

The much talked about multi mode transport plan has been attempted in patches and the phase 2 of the Metro rail has hit deadend.  If Mumbai is considered the best serviced city as far as transport is taken into account, Friday’s commuters protest and vandalism does speak of fundamental problems.

For a city, where over 80 percent of travel is by bus and rail, the transport system is inadequate. The Mumbai suburban railway network on the Central and Western Railways covers over 300 kms.  But this is not sufficient as one rake of local train with a capacity of 1,800 (in a nine-coach configuration) carries nearly 5,000 passengers during peak hours.

 

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