Six AC local trains worth several crores each, which arrived Mumbai over the last 12 months are idling in yards; unable to find a way into the regular suburban system.
Western Railway has not been able to decide how and when to run them, as the entire corridor is completely exhausted with the existing services. With commuters opposing replacement of the services, WR is in no mood to risk public ire, and hence, continues to be in a fix.
Considering the situation, the Railways has now decided to ask the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation to get consultants who would review the existing situation and decide what to do with the trains. The last train was sent to Mumbai on November 14, 2019.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a railway official said, “As of today, on the 120-km Churchgate-Dahanu stretch, the WR runs 1,367 services. Of the total fleet of 101 trains, 89 are in service at any given time. Track paths are limited due to the absence of a dedicated suburban corridor. Hence, the number of services cannot be increased. So the schedule for the AC trains has to be inserted in the existing one. This might not let regular commuters take their daily trains at times they usually do, because they would be replaced by AC ones with higher fares,” said a senior official.
“Can the existing first-class commuters board the AC train? No. The Railways has fixed a higher fare for the AC local, for which they need to buy a special ticket. This discourages many commuters. Though the higher fare is justified, they are blocking easy ways through which commuters could adapt to the AC local.
Rail observer Akshay Marathe said, “As you can see, a considerable amount of time has passed since the last train was sent to Mumbai. It seems no one in the administration is willing to bite the bullet, as a result of which trains worth crores of rupees are just rotting. A similar situation might arise when Central Railway (CR) gets its fleet of six AC trains.”
“The idea is to run a combination of AC and regular locals, but for this the AC coaches need to be technically compatible with the others. The Railways need to work with different parties to get this done. The other option is to introduce full AC trains, but in that case commuters have to be allowed to board the trains with the usual first class tickets,” he added.
“Five trains have arrived but they are rotting in the name of trials. This is only because of the indecisiveness and unpreparedness of the Railways as they are not able to decide how and when to run them. They should have done their homework before the trains arrived,” said Shailesh Goyal, zonal railway users consultative committee. “The Railways is just making up stories and nothing seems to be happening,” he added.