Railways AC local trains get uncool response

To find out why air-conditioned local trains, introduced by the Central Railway (CR) on CSMT and Kalyan sections have not garnered a favourable response, railway officials have set out to survey to understand whether commuters are aware of AC locals and to know their point of view.

The survey comes a day after only 22 passengers travelled in the AC local between CSMT and Kalyan on Day 1. The CR had launched ten AC local train services for the first time on the CSMT-Kalyan section on Thursday.

Central Railway’s Mumbai Division has prepared a set of questionnaires which need to be answered by the commuters to understand how they can increase the numbers of passengers for AC local.

“The survey will be held over the next two weeks, seeking passengers’ views on fare, timings and frequency of AC local trains, among others, and will be inducted along with their experience of using the AC train services available as of now,” said a railway official.

Another railway official said the Mumbai division has created a google sheet to promote the AC local train on the mainline of Central Railway.

“We cannot call it a survey as it is a Google spreadsheet prepared to understand what the mainline commuters view about AC local,” he said.

Despite COVID-19 restrictions, the CR’s network of 1,580 suburban trains carries 6.5 lakh people on an average every day. Each local can take 700 commuters, again keeping the Covid-19 norms in mind.

Rajesh Chavan, resident of Thane said the railway should increase the trains’ frequency, especially during peak hours, certain that it will encourage quite a number of people to give the AC services a shot despite the steep ticket prices. There is only one AC train from Dombivali to CSMT during the morning rush hours and one from CSMT to Kalyan in the evening. Non-AC trains in both these sections see large crowds during peak hours.

“I’m glad that AC trains have finally arrived on the CR’s mainline, but the authorities’ current plan needs an evaluation,” he said.

Similarly, the Western Railway had surveyed in February to analyse poor response to AC local train services.

The survey comes at a time when the WR is looking at inducting its second AC local train while two other AC rakes are yet to be pushed into operations. The first AC train was introduced on December 25, 2017.

“Passengers get a local train every two to five minutes, but in case of an AC train, if they are even a minute late and miss it, the next AC train is scheduled after a considerable duration,” said a senior railway official.

Before pandemic, WR was operating 12 services per day with six each in up and down lines. But now they are running 10 AC local services.

The CR had launched 16 AC local services between Thane and Vashi and Thane and Panvel stations on the trans-harbour corridor in January but had to shelve them after the lockdown was imposed.

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