Mumbai: Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Monday said a decision on the resumption of suburban local train services for all in Mumbai would be taken very soon. A number of options were discussed, including allowing only essential service providers to travel during peak hours from 7am to 9.30am and 4.30pm to 7pm, while allowing the public to commute strictly during non-rush hours.
The government will also suggest that private offices tweak their timings or curtail working hours, to avoid crowding in trains. Thackeray also asked the railway officials to review the Chennai pattern and how it was working.
The Southern Railway has designated 7am to 9.30am and 4.30pm to 7pm as peak hours every day. During peak hours, the trains are only used by essential service providers, as permitted in the first phase of resumption of services. In the second phase, women passengers were allowed to travel by train. Only in the third phase, were suburban services opened to the general public. During non-peak hours, the rest of the public is permitted to travel.
These options were discussed at the meeting Thackeray held with the general managers of the Central and Western Railways, the BrihanMumbai Municipal Commissioner, the Mumbai Police Commissioner and the Director of the State Disaster Management Cell. Thackeray however, insisted that local train services could be resumed by exploring these options, while taking due care to avoid crowding.
"The CM discussed various options on how to resume local train services for all in such a way that there would be no crowding, as the coronavirus pandemic is not over yet," informed the Chief Minister's Office.
Mumbai locals were shut down to the public ever since the nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak in March 2020. Services were resumed on June 15, only for essential services staff, as identified by the Government of Maharashtra. Currently, differently-abled people, cancer patients, women, and lawyers are allowed to travel by train, along with essential workers. Railway officials informed that about 12 lakh commuters are travelling daily.
‘‘Railway officials hinted that if the public is permitted to travel in one go, there will be crowding. So they decided to come up with some more options. There will be another meeting on Wednesday or any other day, as per the CM’s availability,’’ said a senior bureaucrat who was present at today’s meeting.
“Currently, we are operating more than 90 per cent of local train services and do not have any problems. We are waiting for the state government directive on allowing the general public. A decision is expected soon, once the pandemic situation is reviewed,” a railway official said.
Another railway official said while there was no harm in operating local train services for all, they would have to put in place crowd management arrangements at railway stations, though the number of cases had reduced and vaccines had arrived. A final decision would be taken after considering the number of cases across Maharashtra. “There has not yet been any finalisation on resumption of train services for the public. Discussions are underway. Only after completely reviewing the situation with the state government and the observance of coronavirus protocols, will local train services be resumed,” he said.