The iconic Deccan Queen will complete 91 years on June 1. However, the pandemic and Central Railway's decision to discontinue this train temporarily has fizzled out any kind of celebration for the same. In fact the daily passengers commuting in this train claim that they now take at least 5 hours each direction to travel on the Pune-Mumbai route, by train.
The Central Railway cancelled Mumbai-Pune Deccan Queen along with many other trains from May 14 owing to poor occupancy. Now, that Deccan Queen has stopped operations, travel has become troublesome for passengers including those on essential duties who travel for work in this inter-city train.
For Kedar Patil (name changed), who works for the railways, his daily travel time has almost doubled. “I leave home at 6 am and go walking till Pune station. From there I have to take the local train till Lonavala and then onwards take the shuttle till Karjat,” said Patil. The Central Railway is currently operating 8 services everyday on Pune-Lonavala route.
This shuttle comprises of 4-6 coaches with locomotives on either ends attached to it. This shuttle is only for railway employees that runs till Karjat. This train starts from Pune at around 6.20 am and reaches Lonavala at 7.40 am. The shuttle reaches Karjat at around 8.45 am. Another railway employee said that they then take a local grain from Karjat that departs at around 9 - 9.15 am which reaches CSMT station at around 11 am.
“When Deccan Queen was running, it used to take 3 hours and 10 minutes. However, now it takes 5 hours each direction for the same distance between the two cities,” said another railway employee on condition of anonymity. There are close to 1,000 – 1,200 people or so who work on essential duties with different government organisations and travel everyday between Mumbai-Pune cities.
There are state government employees too who commute from Pune by pooling a bus all the way till Mumbai. “There used to be at least 10000 people who commuted between the two cities on daily basis. We have written to the railway authorities about restarting Deccan Queen. Sadly this year too we will not be able to celebrate its anniversary,” said Vikas Deshpande, member, Rail Yatri Sangh Maharashtra and resident of Pune who has been travelling in Deccan Queen for years.
In the evening hours, people take long distance trains as well starting from CSMT that goes till Pune. The CR officials said that they have discontinued Deccan Queen like many other train services as it has occupancy less than 30 percent. The Deccan Queen first ran on June 1, 1930, and will complete 91 years.