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Hip and hopping Mumbai,to cool east-west travel

Their average age is 25,and they are going to drive the city’s fast and swanky monorail and Metro systems.

Written by ZEESHAN SHAIKH | Mumbai | Published: January 1, 2014 12:40:26 am

For the last century-and-a-half,Mumbaikars have relied on the suburban railway system to efficiently ferry them around the city. Nearly 160 years after the first engine chugged out on a trial run from Bombay to Thane,the efficient but aging and grubby mass transit system will face competition from two sleek new transportation systems that will make their debut in Mumbai in 2014.

Driving this change will be 100-plus men and women with an average age of 25 who will be at the helm of these new systems.

For those used to seeing bored-looking middle-aged men driving the suburban rail system,the young,smartly dressed drivers of these transportation systems of the Metro and monorail will come as a refreshing surprise.

Termed as “Train Captains” and “Metro pilots,” men such as 23-year-old Setal Patel and his contemporary Priyanka Balit (23) will be in charge of driving the swanky monorail and the Metro and phenomenally change the way Mumbai looks at travel in 2014.

“It is an exhilarating feeling that we will be in charge of driving a system that will be used for the first time in Mumbai and completely change the way the city travels,” says an excited Balit,who will be one of the first few women drivers running the Metro on its 11.07-km route from Versova to Ghatkopar.

Close to 16 trains will be run on the Versova-Andheri stretch for which 63 “Metro Captains” are being trained at various locations,including Versova.

Interestingly,the Metro has also opened up new job avenues for hundreds of people from all sections of the society.

Balit’s father is a driver in the Gulf and the Vikhroli resident says that being a first generation engineer,the new job which places safety of almost 1,500 commuters in her hands,has done a lot to boost her self-confidence.

“You feel proud about the fact that you will be in charge of such a state-of-the-art machine,” Balit said.

The monorail will also have a team of 17 drivers who will run the initial operations when it runs from Wadala to Chembur. The average of most of the monorail drivers is also 25.

Patel,who will helm the monorail cabin,is an engineer who found out about the opening for drivers though an online advertisement. “It is a great feeling to be part of history. We will be driving a system which will be used for the first time in the country,” Patel says.

Interestingly,these systems will not only include train drivers but also station managers like 27-year-old Jimi Kalloor who will be in charge of looking at the upkeep and passenger interface at monorail stations.

Men like Kalloor have been specifically given instructions in hospitality to ensure that the passenger gets a friendly experience while he is riding the system.

“There will be a huge difference in what people will experience at a monorail station and what they are used to at suburban railway stations. The thrust is on being friendly and hopeful,” says Kalloor.

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