Local Trains: The Lifeline of Mumbai Rohan Rao.

When a true to the core Mumbaikar utters “Aamchi Mumbai”, the local trains will always be an inseparable element of the true spirits reflected in these. The locals have become a hallmark of Mumbai and one is not surprised to know that the daily commuters call the locals as their first homes; this in not surprising considering the fact that some of them spend more than six hours travelling in these trains day in and day out. The Great Indian Peninsular Railway, which later formed the nucleus of the present day Central Railway, came into existence on April 16, 1853, when the first train on the Indian Sub-continent steamed off from Mumbai to Thane, a modest stretch of only 34 kms. Central Railway has since grown manifold. The suburban townships of Mumbai have to shuttle to and from Mumbai day in and day out from distances well beyond 100 kms. Electric Multiple Units (EMU's) are the lifeline of Mumbai, suburban Mumbai in particular. Given the geographical spread of the population and location of business areas, the rail network is the principal mode of mass transport in Mumbai. The general populace commonly refers to the as local trains. The local trains ply on two zonal railways, the Western Railway (WR) and the Central Railway (CR). The Suburban system in Mumbai is one of the most complex and intensively utilised public transportation systems in the world. Spread over 303 route kilometres, it connects distant regions within the daily manageable commute. The British built the first railway line in India in 1853. This was also the oldest railway system in Asia. The first train ran between Mumbai and Thane, a distance of 34 km. The Bombay Railway History Group has been striving to document railway heritage along this line. The Mumbai Suburban Railway, as well as Indian Railways, is an extension of this sapling planted by the British. Since then lots of radical changes have seen the developments of the suburban railway services. Mr. S.C. Mudgerikar, Chief Public Relation Officer, Central Railway, says, “The first 1500V DC EMUs used around Bombay (the first EMUs in India, 1925) were from Cammell Laird (UK) and Uerdingenwagonfabrik (Germany). Later units were supplied by Breda (Italy) as well. ICF has been building about twenty 9-car AC EMU rakes for Mumbai's system each year.”

The populace suburbs depend on the local trains for their daily bread and butter. Banks. government offices and others services and businesses heavily rely on the railways for its sustenance. Mr. almost 43 percent of the total Mumbai suburban rail traffic.Owing to population explosion in Mumbai. fertilizer factories. on an individual basis to the commuters and on a collective basic to the commercial sector. salt. A new broad gauge line running from Panvel to Karjat has further extended this line. “Presently the local trains are capable of maximum speed of 85 km/h in regular service. The annual traffic density. Kundan Lokhande. about 255 million passenger-km per km of route. The actual average speed of locals on the slow lines is about 35 km/h and on the fast line about 45-50 km/h. Motorman. Also schools and colleges have many students and staff relying on railways for commuting.” says Mr. carries about 2. The Central Line in Mumbai bifurcates as they run into Suburban satellite towns. It has the highest passenger density of any urban railway system in the world. the distant suburbs have become residential zones. These two corridors constitute the 'Main' Line. food grains. fertilizers. “The suburban services runs 184 rakes of 9-car and 12-car composition are utilized to run 2067 train services. and between CST and Andheri. Western Railway. Industries like steel Plants. The recently introduced AC/DC rakes are capable of 105 km/h during low traffic times. Churchgate to Virar. Central From Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) to Kalyan it bifurcates to Kasara in the northeast and Karjat–Khopoli in southeast.4 million commuters on a daily basis and constitutes more than half of the total daily passenger capacity of the Indian Railways itself. refineries. mills. The Harbour Line runs between CST and Panvel. Owing to this it is natural that the people inhabiting in these suburbs have to travel towards Mumbai for their employment purposes. Cement factories. The Harbour line has been further added as a link between Thane and Vashi.6 million passengers per day. Mudgerikar. but however don’t provide any employment avenues. says. software firms.” . Central Railway Mumbai Division. is believed to be the world record for passenger rail transport. The system carries more than 6. petroleum agricultural products and agro industries are relying on railways for freight purposes. Even a single days stoppage will amount to huge losses.

With a super-Dense Crush Load of 14 to 16 standing passengers per square . These rakes are designed to seat three people per unit bench installed. “ says Ganesh K. who take pride in being called as ‘Dombivlikar’. The commuters complain that they have no time to offer prayers to the almighty since they hardly are home. balanced precariously and hanging on their fingertips. However this fourth-seat concept did not manage to penetrate the order of the first class compartments. The people. So they seek opportunity during commuting to offer their prayers and also feel relaxed during the stressful journey. The railway also tried to introduce air-conditioned compartment to relieve the commuters of the ever-increasing temperatures. even if the train is empty. contributing to the problem of overcrowding. Bhajans has been a characteristic of the local trains. The trains are so much overcrowded that one cannot even find enough floor space to place his feet. a resident of Dombivli. but it also eats up more space. This has given way to the ‘Fourth-seat’ concept.” says Mr. The rushing in crowd of these ‘Dombivlikars’ has become a trademark along the central line. Managing to find a floor space to place my right foot. “Boarding a fast local during peak hours is an ordeal.Overcrowding has grown to be a compelling problem. The impending introduction of new higher speed rakes may help address the issue. with left foot hanging on for some time and then slowly resting on the feet of someone else. It’s just absolutely impossible to tell whose foot is trampling on ones feet in the mind boggling and suffocating rush. 4700 passengers are packed into a 9-car rake during peak hours. as against the rated carrying capacity of 1700. Trains on the suburban line are on average more than 4 minutes apart. The railways could did not make any further advances in this regard. “I don’t get the feel of boarding the local if I don’t scream and rush. However. just have a knack of rushin-pushing-screaming on top of their voices while entering the local trains.. These units now accommodate four people as against the rated 3. However hosting in air-conditioned compartment is not only expensive for the commuters to afford. Ninad Satpute a Thane resident. People can also be seen travelling on the footboard. It is just impossible for a person to alight at Dombivli during the peak hours. specifically in the secondclass compartments. the brotherhood of Mumbaikars has this undying spirit. Also maintaining closed compartment where halts are sometimes less than two minutes apart is a big problem.

Yearly more than 3. Although. The Ministry of Railways and the Government of Maharashtra have jointly envisioned the constitution of a separate corporate entity to operate the system. one struggles to find a footing. Perambur. “The Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation Ltd (MRVC Ltd). there have been some great milestones achieved. Senior Public Relation Officer says.” Says Mr. Under the MUTP the city would be receiving newly designed coaches manufactured by the Integral Coach Factory.meter of floor space. BHEL has been retrofitting some EMUs with AC drives to allow them to operate with both DC and AC traction as the system conversion proceeds.500 people die on the Mumbai suburban railway track due to overcrowding during peak hours. Conversion to 25kV AC has already been done on the Titwala-Kasara section. The cost of the rail component of the project is to be shared equally by Ministry of Railways and Government of Maharashtra. Plans have been in place to convert the entire Virar-Churchgate section to 25KV AC since a long time. next to be converted is KhopoliVangani. and Titwala-Thane. In preparation for this. it will be atleast three to four years more till the entire section. was incorporated under to implement the rail component of an integrated rail-cum-road urban transport project.5kV DC traction regions. called Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP). Pitambaran. To enable the Mumbai Suburban Railway to meet the demands of the ever-growing passenger traffic. Mr. BHEL has recently developed some AC-DC EMUs for use in the Bombay area in both the 25kV AC and 1. C. Whatever be the present status of the Mumbai suburban railways. which carries millions of commuters everyday. People are even seen traveling on the rooftops and standing on the window bars to commute to their destinations. Vangani-Thane. a public sector unit of the Government of India under the Ministry of Railways. Mudgerikar.” It is a really huge operational challenge to carry out the conversion work without affecting the suburban EMU traffic. the fact that millions of people have their lives dependent on it and the . This is believed to be the highest number of fatalities per year on any urban or suburban railway system. “There are plans to change the DC section to 25kV Alternating Current (AC) by 2010.

.essence and flavour it carries along with it truly and exclusively belongs to ‘Aamchi Mumbai’.

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