Mumbai: It's official now - women can travel by local trains from October 21. Union railways minister Piyush Goyal announced on Tuesday that women commuters could travel on suburban services starting from Wednesday, during non-peak hours. The Central and Western Railways had rejected the state government’s earlier request to allow women to travel during non-peak hours from October 17, citing the need for the Railway Board’s approval before they could do so.
Thereafter, both CR and WR forwarded the state government’s request to the Railway Board, citing the need for observing Covid-19 protocol and social distancing on trains. After a series of meetings between the state government and CR and WR officials, the railways minister announced the decision.
Goyal, who is in the city for medical treatment, tweeted, “I am happy to announce that Railways will allow women to travel on suburban trains from October 21 from 11 am to 3 pm and after 7 pm. We were always ready and with the receipt of letter from Maharashtra Government today, we have allowed this travel.’’
Maharashtra Chief Secretary Sanjay Kumar had made a fresh request on Tuesday, in a letter to the CR and WR, asking that women be allowed to travel between 11am and 3pm and again, from 7pm till the end of services for the day. However, Kumar said, the implementation of the joint decision arrived between the state government and the railway is yet to be initiated.
Confirming the development, Shivaji Sutar, chief public relations officer (CPRO), CR, said railways would allow women to travel on suburban trains from October 21 between 11 am and3 pm and after 7pm. Railways was always ready and with the receipt of a letter from the Maharashtra Government today, it had allowed this travel, informed Sutar.
“Currently, we are operating 1,406 special suburban services on both Central and Western Railway. Moreover, WR will be running an additional four services (ladies special) from October 21, which will increase the services to 704 on its network, including six ladies specials. Thus, Railways will be operating 1,410 special suburban services,” he said.
Sumit Thakur, CPRO, WR, said the QR codes or identification carsd won’t be mandatory for the female passengers although it would continue to be so for essential staff identified by the state government. “All female passengers will be allowed to travel in local trains with valid tickets, between 11am and 3pm and after 7pm. However, other passengers will only be allowed with valid QR code/identity cards and valid tickets,” he said.
However, except for ladies and essential staff, as identified by the state government, others are requested not to rush to the stations. CR and WR have requested that travellers should follow medical and social protocols, as mandated for Covid-19.
In a joint statement, CR and WR said women commuters would just need to have valid tickets for their journey and would not be asked to show QR codes/identity proof.
Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi thanked the Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, tweeting: “Thank you @CMOMaharashtra for restarting local trains for women passengers, this will be hugely beneficial for women travelling long distances for work, since unlock down in the city kicks in and as we cautiously return back to normalcy.’’
Meanwhile, the Congress has slammed the BJP and the railways for their delaying tactics. Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee spokesman Sachin Sawant tweeted, “Result of pressure by @INCMaharashtra. We exposed the strategy of Railways to procrastinate and give reasons. The decision on women’s entry in locals was taken on October 13 and the state sent a letter on October 16. Better late than never. Will keep fighting against BJP’s dirty politics.’’