With ‘Mission Begin Again’ underway in Mumbai, railway officials are studying the feasibility of restarting the suburban local trains for those involved in essential services.
Before the lockdown was imposed in March, Mumbai’s suburban train network was the country’s biggest mass transporter for commuters, ferrying 7.5 million people daily.
Officials are looking at whether the Shramik special train model can be adopted for the local network. For the Shramik specials, the state governments provided a list of passengers. Similarly, for suburban trains, the number of trains would have to be decided based on the number of passengers who will be authorised to avail the services.
Such a system would demand that passengers carry an authorisation letter from state authorities, officials said. It would be issued on various parameters, including that the passenger is not from a containment zone and is medically fit to travel, and would also serve as a station entry pass.
Both Central Railway (CR) and Western Railway (WR) are currently running workmen special trains for their employees based on special or residential card passes issued to them by the divisional offices.
Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) from CR, Shalabh Goel, said: “Railways is gearing up with its plan to run its suburban network in the times to come.” He stressed, however, that no decision to run the trains have been taken so far.
With social distancing norms to be followed, one suburban train would not be able to carry more than 700 seated passengers, against its total seating capacity of 1,200, officials said. A station would require separate entry and exit points for passengers with staff checking for authorisation letters.
If the trains are to include private office-goers, office hours would also need staggering, which would need the cooperation of both state government and private sector employers.
A senior WR official said there committees would have to be formed at the local level with representatives from Railways, state and police to identify the number of offices and their employees who would be allowed to travel. Also being looked into is whether using an app would make the authorisation process more streamlined.
When contacted, DRM of WR, G V L Satya Kumar, said: “A lot of brainstorming is being done. As we move ahead, we need a plan for suburban travel.”
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