By: Santoshee Gulabkali Mishra
Amitabh Ojha, Divisional Railway Manager of the Mumbai Division of the Central Railway, took charge on February 23. His prior assignments have been executive director of the Research Design and Standard Organisation, Lucknow and in the railway wing of the Indian High Commission in London where he focused on monitoring railway practices. In a conversation with Santoshee Gulabkali Mishra, Ojha identifies key issues that are his priority.
What are your priorities for suburban passengers?
I am giving priority to passengers and their issues as basic needs are missing at some places. I am focusing on micro issues. When I interacted with passengers on the stations and local trains, they told me that punctuality is not the only thing they want. Basic infrastructure on the stations and platforms should also be addressed and resolved.
A passenger told me that fans inside local trains don’t work. The taps in toilets leak, water gets accumulated inside the toilets, hygeine, and clean drinking water — these are micro issues I am trying to resolve immediately.
Also, automatic ticket vending machines (ATVMs) sometimes have huge queues. I am talking with departments to focus on either increasing the number of ATVMs or increasing the railway staff attending these machines. Already existing facilities such as elevators and escalators need to be maintained regularly as public movement is increasing in the stations.
What feedback are you getting from passengers ?
It is good that there are various passengers associations in the Mumbai division and problems of passengers are brought to our notice. Along with this traditional system of feedback, I am also meeting the passengers at stations and in trains both on the suburban local trains and long distance trains, taking direct feedback to understand their views. Level crossings are a major issue in the suburbs causing accidents and injuries. The major issues faced by the passengers are of the trains failing to run on time. I want to focus on punctuality.
How do you plan to address the punctuality problem?
The punctuality of train services is possible if we address the issues that cause delays. It is usually the infrastructure that creates the delay in train services — signalling and tracks.The Railway budget had no new trains, the rakes already announced rakes would be coming to this line. That is not the only thing needed. It is very necessary to upgrade our available infrastructure for punctuality. For this some work has been initiated by the authorities. The new network lines are underway to decongest the traffic of local trains.The level crossing issue needs to addressed on urgent basis. We need more Road Over Bridges (ROB) to solve it. MRVC is already working on it.
Any comment on delay in projects announced earlier ?
There are various agencies involved when a project is announced. The General Manager is on weekly basis discussing with the various agencies: BMC, Mumbai Police, MMRDA, Thane Municipal Corporation, Kalyan-Dombivali Municipal Corporation, CIDCO and MRVC. Often, after clearance, the situation is totally different – there is increase in the density, requirements and estimated cost is also affected. On paper, things work out well, while in practice various geographical, social and technical issues are faced. It is a lengthy process as many agencies are simultaneously working in coordination with each other. The numerous approvals and upgraded technology also causes delay in the projects.
What steps are you taking against unauthorised hawkers on railway property?
It is a complicated issue. I have recently observed that the Railway Protection Force (RPF ) is very active but the issue of hawkers is not limited to RPF alone, it involves many agencies and the political executive. We have recently started the drive of removing hawkers from railway premises and I think its shaping well.
What steps are being taken for women’s security on trains?
Policemen of the RPF and the Government Railway Police (GRP) man each station and even travel in local trains. Also, the Central Railway has plans to deploy CCTV cameras for women’s compartments. Trials are being done.