(G.N.S) Dt. 27
Passengers of 12.24 pm Borivali-Churchgate local protest Western Rly decision to run air-conditioned train on time slots meant for them. A day after the high-profile launch of Mumbai’s first air-conditioned local train, the passengers of Western Railway’s general trains have protested running of AC trains at their cost. “Till Saturday , we were travelling by 12.24 pm Churchgate fast local from Borivali, but now the WR has cancelled our train and introduced the AC local at this time slot. What will we do now? Around 50,000 commuters have been affected by this decision. Most of them are not capable of paying the AC fare,” said Borivali resident Jayesh Sutar, 45, who works in a Fort-based private firm.Sutar is not the only person who is opposing the WR decision to run AC local in the time slots meant for the general trains. “My train has also been cancelled. They are running AC local in its place. Can every passenger from that train afford AC local fare? What is the option for them then? Even those with first class tickets or passes will not be allowed to travel by AC train; they will have to buy the AC ticket,” said another commuter who was part of a group of passengers demanding permission to travel in AC local.
“It will definitely lead to overcrowding. Imagine what happens when a Virar fast is cancelled in peak evening hours,” said another passenger. “The AC train may not have that many takers in the weekend, but it will still result in the cancellation of 12 non-AC services that people could have used.”
Chief public relations officer of Western Railway Ravinder Bhakar said, “A group of passengers at Borivali demanded that they be allowed to travel in the AC train. Some of them were even ready to pay the difference in the fare and demanded that they be issued fresh tickets in the train itself, but we told them that railway rules do not permit this.” Railway passenger rights activist Samir Zaveri also criticised the WR for introducing AC train by depriving the common commuters of their rights. “AC local should have been introduced as additional services, instead of eating into the existing timetable. Passengers whose favourite trains have been cancelled will now have to plan their commute accordingly, and take the local that comes before or after the AC service.”
He said with thousands of displaced commuters expected to simply wait for the next non-AC service, railway stations and trains are bound to witness overcrowding. “It will be particularly bad in the peak hours,” Zaveri said.
How ever, WR officials said that they had introduced 32 new services in the new timetable in October, so they have no more slots for additional AC services. “We have worked the timetable in such a way that minimal regular services will be affected,” added officials.
Till December 29, only six services of AC local will operate as a fast local between Borivali and Churchgate. It will be depart for Churchgate from Borivali at 10.20 am, 12.24 pm and 2.11 pm. It will depart for Borivali from Churchgate at 9.30 am, 11.15 am and 1.16 pm. According to WR, they will be increasing the frequency of AC local from January 1. From January 1, 2018, the services of AC local train will replace existing 12 non-AC services, so the total average number of suburban services on WR’s suburban section will remain 1,355, even after the introduction of AC local train. Out of these 12 services of AC local train, eight will run as fast locals between Churchgate and Virar, stopping at major stations ie Mumbai Central, Dadar, Bandra, Andheri, Borivali, Bhayandar and Vasai Road in both directions. Similarly, three fast services will run between Churchgate and Borivali stopping at Mumbai Central, Dadar, Bandra and Andheri stations in both directions. The remaining one service will run as slow service from Mahalaxmi to Borivali, which will stop at all intermediate stations, said an officer of WR.
(G.N.S) Dt. 27