Mumbai: How soon can the suburban trains start for all and sundry? While none other than the Bombay High Court made out a case on Tuesday for devising a mechanism to allow the public to commute at the earliest, Maharashtra Minister of Tourism and Environment Aaditya Thackeray was circumspect and clarified that there was no proposal to restart local trains from mid-October, as was reported in a section of the press and media. ''No, no. More frequency first and deliberations are ongoing,’’ Aaditya told The Free Press Journal, leaving no room for ambiguity that the effort at the moment is to increase the frequency of special trains currently running on the Central and Western Railways.
‘‘So basically, the state is working closely with the railways on the frequency of trains in peak hours. Also, we are thinking of staggering office timings or going in for flexible timings but that will be a larger discussion and process, involving all stakeholders,’’ he noted.
At present, Central Railway is running 423 of its 1,774 services while Western Railway is operating 506 of its 1,367 services. Only government employees and essential services providers are permitted to travel, with special passes.
After the state government had announced the 'Janata Curfew' on March 22, suburban train services were discontinued from the following day and remained so throughout the nationwide lockdown till June 15, when partial resumption of services began, only for essential service providers.
As for the government’s move to introduce staggered work hours, railway passenger associations have been pursuing this demand in a bid to reduce crowds on trains and road traffic.
The Federation of Suburban Railway Passengers Association President Manohar Shelar said, the government, by exercising special powers, should issue orders on staggered office timings before the resumption of suburban railway services. ‘‘The federation has actively been taking up the issue and expects government action soon,’’ he noted.