With rising ridership leading to crowding on board the Mumbai Metro One running between Versova and Ghatkopar, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has now asked Mumbai Metro One Private Limited (MMOPL) to increase the number of coaches on each train.
“I have told them that as per the agreement, they have to increase the number of coaches. It is currently operated with four coaches (on each train) but it should be increased to six,” said R A Rajeev, Metropolitan Commissioner.
With an average daily ridership of 3.4 lakh passengers, the Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar corridor is the eighth densest metro rail corridor in the world. Touching four lakh passengers on a few days, the corridor has witnessed a 13 per cent increase in ridership in 2017-18 compared to the previous year. Providing the much needed east-west connectivity to the city, the metro is often overcrowded during peak hours.
“It has become very difficult to travel in the metro during peak hours. While it is meant to be more comfortable with the air-conditioning, it actually becomes claustrophobic these days. There is no space to even stand. It will be a relief if they increase the coaches,” said Nilesh Bhamre, who travels everyday between Andheri and Saki Naka.
While one half of a compartment is reserved for women commuters, many say this is insufficient. “There is a desperate need to increase ladies’ compartments. When there is no space on the ladies’ side, many move to the general area. As the train is very crowded instances of women being touched inappropriately go unnoticed. Instead of increasing the number of trips they need to have a ladies’ compartment on either end of the train,” said Jyoti Gujjar, who commutes to work from Ghatkopar to Chakala.
With students taking the metro to travel to their institutions Gujjar also suggests that the trains be equipped with luggage racks. “DN Nagar area has a lot of institutions and these students have huge bags. If there were luggage racks it would leave more breathing space. Travelling in the metro right now is just like travelling in the suburban train with commuters squabbling here as well,” she adds.
In a bid to ease congestion MMOPL has increased trips. “In the last one year, we have increased our train services from 370 to 382. This month, we further increased our services to 386, including four in peak hours, to ease traffic. We will further increase our services as and when required,” said a spokesperson from MMOPL.
Each train can carry 1,500 commuters. With 16 more trips added in the last one year, the metro now carries 24,000 more commuters per day.
However, with a proposed fare hike pending in the Bombay High Court, MMOPL claims they are facing huge losses in operating the 11.4-km corridor. “They are facing financial problems and that is why they did not heed my advice,” said Rajeev.
More coaches could also help increase ridership. “During peak hours the trains are running almost at crush capacity. There is a need for six coaches at that time. However, they may be underutilised during non-peak hours. They will have to see how they can balance that. It is possible that some people do not prefer the metro due to the crowds and so when they increase coaches it might help attract more commuters,” said Rishi Aggarwal, a transportation
Earlier this month, BJP MP Dr Kirit Somaiya had written to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis seeking more coaches.
“I have spoken to the authorities to increase coaches and they have said they will take technical advice. Apart from feasibility, the cost overrun during construction is also pending. I have spoken to CAG and they said they will start the audit immediately…,” he said.
MMRDA and MMOPL have been at loggerheads over the construction cost. While MMOPL claims it was over Rs 4,000 crore, MMRDA says it is around Rs 2,300 crore. The CAG is set to audit the records.