Updated: January 31, 2021 6:10:59 pm
Nearly 10 months after regular operations of the suburban train services were shut down, the Maharashtra government and the Indian Railways have decided to allow the general public to travel by Mumbai local trains during non-peak hours while following Covid-19 norms.
The state government has asked offices to stagger timings so that staff can avail the services as well as overcrowding in trains can be avoided.
On Friday afternoon, the Maharashtra government wrote a letter to the Chief General Managers of both the Central Railway (CR) as well as Western Railway (WR) stating that all categories of people be allowed to board the suburban trains starting February 1.
Within hours of the railways receiving the letter, Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal gave the go-ahead and announced that suburban train services would resume for the general public starting February 1.
The services will, however, be opened in a restricted manner with a person holding a valid ticket or pass allowed to board local trains till 7 am in the morning, between 12 pm and 4 pm and after 9 pm till the last local of the day.
The proposal said that the time between 7 am and 12 pm and 4 pm and 9 pm which are deemed as peak hours should be reserved only for essential services staff and those being permitted presently by the state.
Suburban train services were shut down on March 23 during the lockdown. The partial resumption of services was announced on June 15; however only those who were deemed to be essential service providers were allowed to board these trains after being allotted a special pass. Those who are presently allowed to board trains include essential services staff, state and central government staff, employees of nationalised and private banks, PSUs and pharma companies, lawyers and women commuters during designated hours.
The CR used to operate 1,774 services while the WR would operate 1,367 services each day before the pandemic. These services operate on an average frequency of around one every four minutes ferrying around 8 million commuters per day. At present the railways is running 2,985 services per day compared to 282 services in mid-June during the peak of the pandemic. In spite of the addition of services, due to the restrictions that the state had imposed on who could travel the railways is presently catering to only 18.5 lakh commuters.
For a linear city like Mumbai, the suburban train services play a vital role in facilitating the north-south movement of the city’s workforce. The two suburban systems operated by WR and CR stretches 319 km. It facilitates the inter-district travel of commuters in five districts namely Mumbai, Mumbai Suburban, Thane, Palghar and Raigarh. The decision to regulate the services on the nation’s largest commuter train network has caused hardships to many residents of Mumbai’s satellite cities, especially
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