Women commuters will now face a tough time grabbing handles while travelling in the 15-car local train – the longest local train with 16 services a day – due to a goof-up by the Central Railway (CR) when two gender-reserved compartments were interchanged with general compartments. The general compartments, whose features are designed to suit men, have grab handles set four inches higher.
Senior railway officials admitted that grab handles provide the maximum support for commuters climbing on to a train during rush hour and that with the new height limit, this could cause discomfort and pose risks during the commute.
The interchange occurred when the 15-car rake was sent for its first-ever periodic overhaul (POH) maintenance for 21 days. These two coaches, added at the Kalyan (northern suburb) end of the train, are sans identification, which could lead to further confusion. To make amends, CR will be putting up posters outside the coaches to highlight that they are reserved for women.
In the regular rake, two of the three additional coaches towards the Kalyan end of the train have been earmarked for woman commuters travelling in the first and second-class compartments. With the rake scheduled for its maintenance, the Kurla car-shed readied a replacement rake in which the authorities attached three general coaches to a regular 12-car rake. None of the added coaches were painted or marked as gender reserved coaches.
“Instead of sending the right mix of coaches, the car-shed sent general coaches, which has led to the confusion. Due to lack of spares, women commuters will have to travel in coaches where all the grab handles are higher and meant for men commuters, until the regular trains returns to service,” said a senior railway officer.
On Wednesday morning, the replacement rake saw its own set of problems when a commuter brawl was reported at Thane railway station after women complained of irregular positioning of the coaches. With no spare coaches reserved for women available with the Kurla car-shed, women commuters will now have to travel in the three general coaches for the next 20 days.
Also, to ensure that there are no fights between men and women commuters, 15 ticket checking staff have been deployed for the next 20 days in three shifts at Byculla, Dadar, Kurla, Ghatkopar, Thane and Dombivli to prevent men from boarding the two coaches. “We will earmark the coaches by putting special posters on the three coaches to avoid confusion among commuters. The arrangement will continue until the time the regular rake returns back from POH,” said a CR spokesperson.