Although Central Railway has started two special trains between Mumbai and Pune – with the timings same as that of the popular Deccan Queen and Indrayani Express – commuters who travel between the cities daily for work are not too enthusiastic about the restoration of service. They point out that the special trains do not accept seasons passes, a facility used by most regular travellers.
This became apparent on Saturday as both trains, which can carry over 1,000 passengers each, had less than 200 during their trip from Pune to Mumbai. While the Railway administration said that the low occupancy was due to the weekend, commuters and passenger activists feel that the invalidation of seasons’ passes for these services is bound to turn passengers away. The requirement of booking a train berth twice a day is proving to be a tough task for many passengers.
“We are hoping that the passenger count will pick up from Monday. Also as the news of resumption of Pune-Mumbai service spreads, more travellers will come to us as train is the cheapest mode of travel between the two cities,” said Manoj Jhawar, public relations officer of Railway’ Pune Division.
Chetan Gadre, a regular commuter between the two cities, said daily travellers had been waiting anxiously for Pune-Mumbai train services to resume, but the decision to not accept season passes has dampened their enthusiasm.
Harsha Shah of the Railway Pravasi Group said daily commuters will also have to shell out a fare higher than what a monthly season pass would cost.
“Most of the daily travellers use a season pass, which costs Rs 840 a month for second class sitting and Rs 3,360 for chair car. Now they will have to book the ticket twice a day at Rs 107 per ticket, so they will end up spending Rs 4,000 to 6,000 a month. This is quite expensive for working class travellers,” said Shah.
He said the Railways can easily resolve the issue by treating Pune-Mumbai daily commuters employed in government services, banking and healthcare etc as ‘essential service providers’. “They can be issued e-passes, like in suburban trains, and allowed to buy season tickets. Similar concessions can be issued to those travelling on Pune-Daund, Pune-Satara, Pune-Kedgaon, Pune-Solapur routes daily,” said Shah.
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