Railways, Civic Bodies Consider Staggered Office Timings to Curb Crowding in Trains

In view of the possible resumption of Mumbai Suburban Services from 1st September 2020, the Railways is in talks with civic bodies in Mumbai city and the rest of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) to see if public and private offices can agree to implement staggered office timings.

The move is aimed at reducing the crowds in trains, which is the major reason why the authorities have been reluctant to resume the suburban train operations that were shut in May.

The Railways, along with municipal corporations in the MMR are working on creating specific office shift timings and tweaking local train timings to avoid overcrowding inside compartments and on the railway platforms. A plan on the implementation of staggering office and local train timings is being finalised.

Local train services were cancelled from March 23 to the general public. A few train services were resumed on June 15 only for those working in essential services in the city.

Identification of government and private offices in different wards, along with recording details of employees are being undertaken, and a database will be created, said Railway officials.

“We are working alongside different municipal corporations for the introduction of shift timings for offices. After the mapping is completed, staggered office timings along with revised train timings will be implemented,” said GVL Satyakumar, divisional railway manager, Western Railway (WR).

The IMC Chamber of Commerce and Industry expressed support for the idea. “IMC will fully support any decision taken that looks at lives and livelihood in a balanced manner. Mumbai suburban trains are the economic lifeline of the city and must resume with due care in place,” said Rajiv Podar, president, IMC.

The plan to introduce staggered office timings was first floated by former Union railway minister Suresh Prabhu during his tenure in 2015. Prabhu, a resident of Mumbai, was aware of the commuting problems of locals.

He had multiple discussions with the state government on ways to reduce crowding in trains. Prabhu had also directed Rail India Technical and Economic Service (RITES) to prepare a report on the staggering of work hours. The report was later submitted to the state government and suggested that organisations which have a less public interface, including back offices, IT, manufacturing, corporate and accountancy firms should encourage their employees to work from home. Offices could also stagger the weekly-off.