Mumbai's bustling suburban railway network, a lifeline for millions of daily commuters, has long been plagued by the issue of overcrowding during rush hours. Recognising the urgent need for a solution, the Central Railway is contemplating a significant step to alleviate this problem – the relocation of canteens and stalls from crowded platforms.
"Overcrowding on Mumbai's suburban trains has been a long-standing issue, and the Central Railway's proactive consideration of relocating stalls is a positive step towards creating a more comfortable and efficient commuting environment," said Ramchandran, a 56-year-old commuter.
One of the busiest rail network in the world
With over 39 lakh daily commuters, the Central Railway's suburban network is one of the busiest in the world. Stations such as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT), Thane, Kalyan, Ghatkopar, Dombivli, Kurla, Panvel, and Dadar witness the highest congestion. The surge in daily passengers has led to cramped platforms, overcrowded local and outstation trains, and an overall distressing commuting experience.
Recently, a viral video depicted the harrowing situation at Thane and Kurla stations, highlighting the urgency of finding a solution to this ongoing problem. Similar scenes can be observed at Ghatkopar and other crowded locations across the suburban network.
"To address these concerns, the Central Railway is considering the relocation of stalls at these crowded stations. In the Mumbai division alone, there are more than 400 stalls, with 81 of them located at key stations between CSMT and Kalyan. These stalls occupy valuable space that could otherwise be utilised for the efficient dispersal of passenger movement," said an official.
Crowd near a food stall at Dadar railway station on November 1, 2023. | Vijay Gohil
Authorities identify catering and multi-purpose stalls for relocation
The Central Railway authorities have identified several catering and multi-purpose stalls for potential relocation. These include eight catering stalls at CSMT and Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT), seven catering stalls at Dadar, four at Kurla, around a dozen at Thane and Kalyan, six at Dombivli, and one at Panvel. Additionally, four multi-purpose stalls at CSMT, three at Dadar, one each at Kurla and Dombivli, four at LTT, three at Thane, Kalyan, and Dombivli, and two at Panvel are likely to be relocated.
According to sources, the decision to relocate several stalls located on the crowded platform of Thane station has already been made. The final decision regarding the relocation of stalls at other stations is currently in the process.
"The potential removal and relocation of these stalls are aimed at improving platform space and reducing overcrowding. This move holds the promise of significantly enhancing the daily travel experience for millions of commuters who rely on the suburban railway network," said Dr Shivraj Manaspure chief public relations officer of the Central Railway.