The Western Railway (WR) is mulling the idea of allowing First Class and Second Class commuters to board air-conditioned locals. The condition is that one would be asked to pay the difference in fare for the destination they want to travel to. The probability of it happening immediately is far-fetched, though the WR authorities might give it a try on an experimental basis to see the reaction from Mumbaikars. This comes at a time when discussions between the rail authorities and the Maharashtra government are underway for allowing school and college-going students to travel in suburban local trains.
According to WR officials, they are certainly looking into the possibility of taking up this experiment which will help them to understand the acceptance level from people towards AC locals.
This can probably happen when daily tickets are sold to passengers that are disallowed at present and only monthly season tickets are being sold to the fully vaccinated. On the evening of October 14, the Railways issued this new circular on who else will be allowed to travel in local trains apart from those who are fully vaccinated. The Maharashtra govt has allowed people less than 18 yrs to travel by local trains who shall be issued monthly season tickets at railway counters. In the future when vaccines are available for this age group then this will continue for first 60 days of such availability. And even those persons who have a medical condition and cannot take vaccine, need to carry Doctor's certificate.
“We are considering the idea of allowing passengers who do not have tickets for AC locals but other Classes to travel and then our TTEs will collect the difference. This plan, however, has not been fully worked out, and we still mulling its workability,” said a senior WR official.
The difference in fare will have to be paid to the onboard train ticket examiner (TTE) who could be provided with a handheld device as well.
The Railway authorities are already in talks with the Maharashtra government to come out with a plan that will allow children and youngsters less than 18 years to travel by the local train. “In fact, we are in touch with the Chief Secretary and top state officials as well. They have said that plans are being worked out that will allow youngsters to use the local trains and are likely to be implemented soon,” said another railway official.
The Railway Board has already given in-principle approval for bringing fares of AC locals at par with the fare chart decided by MMRDA for Mumbai Metro rail. This will bring down the fares substantially. And before it gets actually implemented; according to railway officials, the idea is to allow people to have tickets/season passes of other Classes in AC locals and simply collect the difference of fares minus the fine; then it shall give a fair idea about the demand for AC locals as well.