Mumbai News

Smooth ride on Mumbai locals after 84 days, but confusion prevails – The Hindu

After a gap of 84 days, Mumbai’s lifeline — it’s local trains — was back on the tracks on Monday, though partially, with 362 suburban services resuming across the network to ferry essential staff, as permitted by the State government.

The response on the first day was muted as many did not know of the decision to run trains which was taken late on Sunday night after a series of discussions between officials of the Railways and the State government.

Commuters were allowed entry into the station area only after their ID cards were checked. There was a second round of checking at the ticketing counter with tickets being issued only after ID cards were checked. Railways officials said the State government, through the Mumbai Police, was working on a QR code-based e-pass system for commuters. Sainath Rajadhyaksha, executive president of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Engineers’ Union, said not many turned up on Monday because few knew about services running.

Some ambiguity

There was also some ambiguity over “essential services staff”. Many bank employees turned up at the stations. Chetan Pandya, who lives in Kalbadevi and works in a cooperative bank in Vile Parle said, “The officials at the station were very helpful and supportive in the morning, and told me that trains were operating as per fast locals with few stops. I took a train from Mumbai Central and got down at Andheri. However, when I reached Andheri station to go back home in the evening, I was told that bank employees were not allowed. If they are starting after such a long time, they should think about everyone and resume services properly,” he said.

It was only by the end of the day that some clarity came that staff of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and other municipal corporations in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), the Mumbai Police, those working at Mantralaya and other central government institutions, as well as medical workers at government and private hospitals would be allowed to travel on trains.

The Central Railway marked circles to ensure physical distancing at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus on Monday.

Western Railway (WR) earned ₹6 lakh during the morning peak time by issuing 3,521 tickets and 1,466 season passes. The Railways had allowed season pass holders to extend the validity of their passes to compensate for the days lost on the current passes due to the lockdown. On WR, 190 persons availed this facility. CR and WR ferried around 30,000 people each through the day.

Services on both CR and WR started around 5 a.m. Ashok Tiwari was steering a train after nearly three months, when he reported for duty for the 5.30 a.m. local from Virar to Churchgate.

“We had been doing daily revision sessions and keeping ourselves up to date with the signal placements and other technical aspects. Initially, there was little anxiety. After I made the first halt at Nallasopara, the confidence came back,” he said.

The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) Undertaking also ran 2,557 buses through the day which included buses to areas in the larger Metropolitan Region. “We still need to cater to people who are not allowed on local trains and hence will continue to run the buses,” Manoj Varade, BEST spokesperson said.