As the 1 am train leaves Churchgate station for Borivali, the station wears a deserted look with some homeless people loitering around and the railway police shepherding them out of the premises. Being the last local train for the night, this becomes the last hope for many commuters who work late into the night, to get back home. Jai Kishan, a paan shopowner in Marine Lines, has been taking the same train to Jogeshwari for the last 40 years and has managed to always make it in time. “In the 40 years that I have taken this train I have always managed to reach before 1:03 am when it leaves Marine Lines,” he says.
Most commuters come huffing and puffing into the station, afraid that they might have just missed their last ride back home. They earnestly hope that the Railways would add just another train after 1 am, to ferry those left behind. Parag Pophale, an employee at a stockbroker firm at Fort, says that if another train is added it will also see good ridership as many commuters do not head to the station believing that they are already too late.
“Many commuters do not even try catching the train as they feel they will be too late for it. If there is another train after 15 mins or so it will be able to cater to those people,” he says.
There are very few options for the people who do not make it in time for this local. They either have to take a cab to their destination or just wait outside the station for the morning services to begin. “Due to the nature of my work I often tend to miss this train. Then I wait outside the station for three hours to get a train back home. However, the wait is not too bad as the station’s WiFi facility keeps me engaged,” says Anil Singh, a staffer at Leopold Cafe in Colaba.
Knowing the importance of the last local for the commuters the motormen also show some leniency. “Since it is the last local we run it a few minutes late so that as many people as possible can take it. Even after we start the train from the station, if we see someone running towards it we stop for a moment to allow them in,” says the motorman of the train on the condition of anonymity.
Some Central Railway commuters also take this train when they miss the last train from the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) at 12.34. “I could not make it in time for the Central Line train to Kurla. Now I will travel to Andheri and look for some means of transport from there,” said Vikas Gupta, a cashier at a Girgaon restaurant.
A majority of the commuters on the last local are from the hospitality industry including restaurant waiters, chefs, hotel staff, Railway catering staff and also singers. The ladies compartment is almost empty through the journey save for a couple of women who work as singers in restaurants. It is the safety that an armed and uniformed man in the compartment provides that pushes them to take the train. Speaking anonymously, one of the women, who works as a singer in a Mahim restaurant says, “Having an alert guard around gives us a strong sense of security and the confidence to take the train. Though hardly any women travel by this train it is important they provide security to the few who do.”
“Seeing a lone woman in the train many drunkards and drug addicts attempt to get into the compartment but we keep them away. If we were not to guard the compartment they would definitely succeed in creating trouble,” says the Home Guard on duty. Meanwhile at the Churchgate station after the police staff manage to vacate the area, they lock all entrances to the station allowing only the cleaning staff to prepare the station for the next day’s services which resume at 4.15 am.