Mumbai: Ladies first. Now, it may be the turn of the rest. The Maharashtra Government, on October 28, wrote to the general managers of both the Central and the Western Railways on the subject of allowing everyone to travel on the special suburban services currently in operation, proposing staggered timings for essential and non-essential staff.
Railway officials said they had received the letter and further decisions would be taken after meetings between the Ministry of Railways, government officials and railway GMs.
An order issued by the secretary, disaster management, relief and rehabilitation department, on Tuesday stated: “The State is looking to open up the local train services to the general public while ensuring adherence to the following of all COVID 19 protocols, in order to ensure that this is done in a staggered manner," read the statement.
“It is requested that local train services should be resumed for the general public with a valid ticket or pass from morning first local to 7.30 am and again from 11 pm to 4 pm and then from 8 pm until the last local of the day. Moreover, there should be a special ladies train after every one hour. However, the date for allowing non-essential passengers has not been decided... QR codes will not be required for ladies travelling during the said time period,” the order read.
The order issued by Secretary Kishor Raje Nimbalkar said it was valid for both Mumbai and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. The proposed time schedule would require increasing the frequency of local trains to meet the demand of above-proposed commuters. "It is requested that the Railways may kindly give their inputs on the above proposed time schedule at the earliest," said the order.
Senior railway officials said they were ready to resume local train services for everyone but before that, they needed approval from the Union Minister of Railways. “ A discussion in this regard will be held with the state government, to finalise the modalities. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) will also look into the issue.''
Central and Western Railway authorities, along with passenger unions, suggested changes in office hours to reduce crowding inside local train compartments. “Railways has always been ready to augment/enhance suburban services keeping in mind social distancing norms. We are working closely with State Government of Maharashtra to provide these additional services after consultation with them,” CR tweeted.
“The government is concerned and wants to permit everyone to travel by local trains. We suggested a change in shift timings while the pandemic is raging. The change in office hours will drastically reduce overcrowding. The state government can only ask private sector companies to implement changes in their office hours,” said Lata Argade, secretary, Suburban Railway Passenger Association.