The AC local train services have been a bone of contention between Central Railway and the commuters. Many opposed the 10 additional AC services that CR introduced nearly a month ago which were eventually redacted after protests from commuters.
However, the CR is of the opinion that AC locals are need of the hour. Passengers meanwhile are lamenting that prices of season tickets are expensive.
The CR in May reduced prices of card tickets of AC locals but did not revise season pass fares. Defending their stance, the railway officials said compared to other transportation means, the cost of travelling un AC local train is much cheaper.
"If we compare the fare of AC services, then the difference is easily noticeable. For example CSMT- Kalyan section (approx.54 kms) single journey fare is just Rs. 105. However Mini cab or a taxi is around Rs 830 " said Shivaji Sutar , Chief public relations officer of central railway adding that AC local is not only more safe and comfortable but also faster.
"It is important to note that most commuters on the suburb network opt for the season pass. If we take an example of CSMT-Kalyan section then a MST (Monthly Season Pass) for one person, to travel in AC local, costs around Rs. 2,135 in which 50 journeys are normally considered. If we calculate further then a single journey comes around Rs 42 for one person. The suburban services are highly subsidised. It is the cheapest mode of transport in the world as it costs 70 paise per km," said another CR official.
Passengers have however said that this type of comparison is moot since both modes of transport--AC local and cabs--have different characteristics.
"Local trains are considered life line of the city, it cannot be ompared to the taxi services," Subhash Gupta, Chairman of Rail Yatri Parishad said.
Gupta added, "Undoubtedly, Mumbai needs AC local, at the same time railway administration needs to understand the existing need and affordability of Mumbaikars too," demanding the revision in the prices season ticket of AC local.
Similarly Lata Argade, secretary of Suburban Passengers Assosiation said, "AC local is a future mode of transport, we are not opposing introduction of more AC services, but not on the cost of common passengers."
AC locals started on WR in December 2017 and on CR in January 2020. Since then, the number of services has gradually increased, and CR currently operates 56 AC local services on the Main line of Mumbai Division and WR currently operates 48 AC local services on Mumbai division of WR.
While an average of 42,000 passengers use AC locals daily on CR, nearly one lakh passengers travel in these locals daily on WR.
Justifying the introduction of AC local trains in suburban line, officials explained, "In 2019 total 611 passengers died after falling from running trains in the suburban section of city, of these 426 deaths were reported in the suburban section of CR."
"Similarly, 711 and 654 deaths were reported in 2018 and 2017 respectively. Of these 482 and 407 deaths were reported in CR suburban section in 2018 and 2017 respectively," the official added.
When asked about the replacement of non-AC local by AC locals an officer of CR's operation department said, "Presently, Central Railway runs 1810 suburban services of which 56 are AC services which constitutes about 3% of the total services. If we calculate it further, then out of 56 AC services, 34 are newly added services and not replaced by non ac services. Replacement is barely around 1.2 per cent."
Subhash Shinde (45) a frequent local commuters of Badalapur, who works as a security gaurd with south Mumbai based private firm, he said, "Stations like Badalapur and Titwala, where freuquency of trains is 10 to 15 minutes, introduction of AC local on replacement forced non-AC commuter to wait up to 20 minutes, which not only leads to crowding at station but also hampers the schedule of passengers. Hence railway should reduce the price for season ticket so public travelling in second class can also afford it."
Another non-AC commuter of Badalapur, Rajan Chavan( 40) echoed Shinde's sentiments.