Mumbai: In a response to a letter regarding resuming local trains for the general public with staggered timing, the Western and Central Railway said that only 9.6 lakh and 12.4 lakh passengers can travel in the current COVID-19 condition compared to 35 lakh and 45 lakh respectively which was before the pandemic. Railway officials said they have submitted their views and opinion to the state government and based on that meeting should be held immediately.
In a letter sent to the Kishore Raje Nimbalkar, Secretary, Disaster Management, Relief and Rehabilitation, Government of Maharashtra, the railways said during the Pre-Covid regime, Western Railway was running, daily, 1367 EMU services, thus carrying approx. 35 lakh passengers daily. Average train occupancy, during the Pre- Covid regime, was thus 2560 passengers per EMU service. However, the above was not evenly distributed, with maximum passengers travelling in peak period (07.30 AM to 11.30 AM and 05.0 PM to 09.00 PM), with occupancy rising to the levels of 4500 passengers per train.
“We do not have any issues in increasing the train services from existing 704 numbers to the maximum possible 1367 numbers, but the issue of segmentation/segregation of passengers, thus enabling social distancing, has to be ensured by the State Government, by some technological solution / App or otherwise. The help of State Government Police would also be required to support the existing strength of RPF, GRP, in crowd control,” read the letter.
Sumit Thakur, chief public relation officer, CR said in the present Covid regime, a safe number of passengers per EMU service would work out to 700. So, even if we start all 1774 EMU services, we can transport a maximum of 12.4 lakh passengers daily, which is much less than the 45 lakh passengers who were travelling in the Pre-Covid regime.
“Currently ticketing is being done through booking counters only, to restrict the issuance of tickets to only the permissible categories of passengers. Once the suburban services are opened up for the general public, tickets will have to be issued to all public. For this UTS APP may have to be started, which we have disabled presently, as it does not have the facility to restrict a particular category to buy the ticket. Therefore, before the opening of suburban services to the general public, access to the station, through technological solutions, will need to be ensured beforehand by the State Government,” he said.
Moreover, the State Government has suggested that one train per hour be run as ladies’ special, but the railway feared once a train is nominated as ladies special there will be a natural accumulation of ladies on the platform awaiting the ladies’ special. “Similarly, the male passengers will also start accumulating to be able to board the train after ladies’ special. Thus, the dwell time of both male and female passengers on the platforms will increase creating an artificial surge, a situation that we would like to avoid to maintain social distancing,” the letter read further.
Finally, if such a facility were to be advanced to the ladies during the Covid period and which after Covid will be withdrawn, it will lead to severe criticism as the total number of trains will continue to remain capped at 1367 due to capacity limitations.
Senior railway officials said the State Government should quickly decide the technological solution they propose to stagger the rush in the trains, with total passengers travelling in a single -day capped to 9.6 lakhs. Moreover, it is learned that the Government of West Bengal has already taken steps in this direction and the Government of Maharashtra is also considering developing an App for this.
“Meetings in this context have been held by the State Government on October 22 and 27, in which Central Railway and Western Railway Officials had also participated. The railway is willing to provide all statistical inputs to the State Government, if required, for development of this technological solution,” he said.