In a move to find out what changes need to be made in terms of train operations, the Indian Railways had come up with an online survey called ‘Feedback on AC Local’ on June 15. A fortnight later, around 11,000 commuters on both Western and Central lines took the survey. The survey is still on and commuters can still submit their answers. On June 29, the railways met the rail passengers associations, seeking their views on the future of AC locals that are currently lying in the car sheds.
The survey had multiple choice questions seeking views from commuters. The railways are hoping for at least 50,000 to 55,000 people to respond; which means five times the existing number of respondents. Sources said that as of now, close to 70% have responded that they were ready to switch over from private cars, autos, taxis and aggregator cabs to AC locals.
This, according to railway officials, is a good sign and they feel that the AC locals have a future. If properly planned and operated, at least 65% are eager to travel by the AC train. This comes at a time when 13 AC locals (nine with WR and four with CR) are lying idle due to the pandemic. Even during pre-Covid times, all the AC locals weren’t running as there was opposition to replace existing regular rake with AC ones.
“We have suggested that the railways attach three AC coaches to the existing nine-car or 12-car non-AC suburban train. The demand from commuters for an entire 12-car AC local hasn’t gained much traction,” said Madhu Kotian, president, Mumbai Railway Pravasi Sangh.
One of the questions in the survey includes the coach composition of AC local, which is six-car AC and six-car non-AC or nine-car non-AC and six-car AC. Currently, a 12-car AC local is divided into half, with six-car each. The passengers’ associations claimed that a similar meeting with the rail authorities took place in January 2019 as well, but nothing much changed since then.
“We have demanded that fares should not be more than 10 percent of fares of First Class compartment,” said Subhash Gupta, president, Rail Yatri Parishad. The survey also talks about fares, probable train schedule, train composition and other issues pertaining to it.