Life on the Local: Why the 5 pm Ambernath semi-fast in Mumbai, is unlike any other local train

The Ambernath semi-fast halts only at Dadar and Thane after which it becomes slow halting at all stations till Ambernath.

Written by Mohamed Thaver | Mumbai | Updated: October 26, 2016 5:30 am

It does not stop on its tracks to pay obeisance to Byculla; after a brief halt at Dadar, it does onward without paying any heed to Ghatkopar, completely ignoring Mulund, till it finally turns plebeian from Thane and halts at all railway stations till Ambernath. The 5-pm Ambernath semi-fast is different from its ilk. Arguably, the fastest train on the suburban network uptil Thane, owing to just one halt in between, the train has its own aura as it chugs out of CST at sharp 5 pm.

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The Ambernath semi-fast halts only at Dadar and Thane after which it becomes slow halting at all stations till Ambernath. The train has become a favourite, especially for those wanting to alight at Dadar and Thane. Not only do they reach quick, the train also reaches Dadar in 10 minutes. They can get down easily since majority of the ‘working crowd’ between Kurla and Thane does not board this train.

The general belief is that the train has been given fewer halts as it clears the way for the Pune-bound Deccan Queen that departs at 5.10 pm and only halts at Dadar railway station within city limits.

The Central Railway Public Relations Officer said the train was given fewer halts in order to maximise the flow of fast trains during peak hours.

Walk into CST around 4.45 pm, and there will be a crowd of people waiting near the main indicator even as trains come and go. As soon the indicator reads 5.00 A (Ambernath) SF, the sea of people moves towards the said platform. As soon as the train chugs in, Mumbaikars get into the empty train as only they can — five persons at a time.

Aleron D’Souza is making enquiries if the train “really stops at only one station before Thane”. “I am already late and have to reach Thane for an appointment by 5.30 pm. I was looking for a fast train, when I saw the indicator for this one. I thought there had been some error as the indicator read the train will only halt at Dadar before reaching Thane. However, turns out it’s true,” said D’Souza, who is in his early 30’s.

“I had no clue such a train existed. I will still be late but by hardly a few minutes,” D’Souza added.

Technically, the train actually reaches Thane around 5.30 pm, but then since it has to switch over to the slow line, it takes a few extra minutes before commuters can get off at Thane around 5.35-5.40 pm, at least a good 10-15 minutes before a “normal fast train” — halting at Byculla, Ghatkopar and Mulund — would reach Thane.

However, the extra few minutes is not what is the main allure as per Vinit Bhojani, an Ulhasnagar resident, who studies in a south Mumbai college. “Some of my college friends reside in Dadar and Thane, and we all leave college for CST to get this train. At times, when we reach at 4.40 pm, we go out eat something and come back for the 5 pm Ambernath,” said Bhojani.

He explained, “So if they wanted to reach early, there are two other trains before 5 pm. But in this train, since there are fewer stations, they find it easier to get off at the station. A lot of officer goers, who come from Vikhroli, Ghatkopar, Bhandup etc, do not board this train.”

Apart from Bhojani and his group of friends, the fans of the train include Arzan Kotval, who has made a You-Tube video, recording stations that the train passes by from Matunga, Sion, Kurla, Vidyavihar, Ghatkopar, Vikhroli, Kanjurmarg, Bhandup, Nahur and Mulund without halting even once.

Central Railway Chief Public Relations Officer, Narendra Patil said while it was possible that the Deccan Queen leaving around the same time could be one of the reasons for the few halts, he said it was more a timetabling issues to ensure that more fast locals leave the station during peak hours. Whatever be the reason for it, the train is getting popular and is doing so at a high speed.