The Mumbai Suburban Railway better known as the Mumbai local trains is one of the busiest commuter railway systems in the world. Right from the wee hours of the morning to late night, the Mumbai local trains serve over 75 lakh commuters each day. The network connects about 465 miles crisscrossing Mumbai, the country’s financial capital with its suburbs. It is considered to be the lifeline of the second most populous city in the country. One of the major challenges faced by daily commuters is overcrowding. Heat, dust, and grime make the commute uncomfortable. This problem, however, may soon come to an end. On Wednesday, 25 October, 2017, Union Railway Minister, Piyush Goyal announced the introduction of Mumbai local train’s first fully air conditioned (AC) service. These AC trains will be operational from 1 January, 2018. Goyal said to the media, “The AC trains have been tried and tested and will be introduced on 1 January.”
The Western Line
The introduction of these new AC local trains is likely to be made on the Western Railway (WR) line which connects Churchgate and Borivili. There are about 37 stations on the route including Mumbai Central, Lower Parel, Dadar, Bandra, Andheri, and Goregaon. About half of the daily commuters using the Mumbai suburban trains (approximately 35 lakh passengers) use this line each day. Initially a single AC train will ply on this route with seven services through the day. With time, this is likely to be increased to 10 – 20 services per day. Eventually we are likely to find AC local trains running on the Central Railway (CR) lines as well.
Likely Fare For AC Train
The Railway Ministry has not come out with the final fare chart for passengers in the AC trains. What seems likely right now is that tickets will be priced at about 1.5 times the cost of existing first class tickets in the Western Line local trains. This will make them at par with the Delhi Metro tickets. The railway officials have been seeking far suggestions from the people of Mumbai and the final decision will be in keeping with the average budget of Mumbaikars (for their daily commute). News reports suggest that a one way ticket from Bandra to Churchgate in the new AC train is likely to cost between INR 125 and INR 140 and from Borivili to Churchgate will cost between INR 195 and INR 210. It is noteworthy that this makes (AC) train travel costlier than monthly bus passes (AC bus) in the city.
Capacity And Coach Specifications
The AC local train coaches have been manufactured at the Integral Coach Factory in Chennai. The EMU (electrical multiple unit) AC coaches have been designed to suit both the WR and CR as well. Each train is likely to have 12 coaches. Each train will have a total seating capacity of 1,028 passengers but can accommodate nearly 5000 more standing commuters. The first and last six compartments will be interconnected through vestibules. The coaches will be equipped with automatic sliding doors. The doors will have security knobs that will allow them to be opened manually both from inside and outside (for use during emergencies). The cost of the train is pegged at INR 50 crore.
Project Delays And Challenges
The AC local train project of Mumbai has been in the works for over a year. In fact, by June-July this year, news reports suggested that the first train may be operational by October (this month). Operational exigencies, however, caused delays in the project. The main concern was the height of two bridges, one at Mahalaxmi and the other at Matunga. But the Railway Board authorities said that even this problem has been addressed. Gradually, they plan to procure additional AC rakes from BHEL. These new coaches will be designed to circumvent the height problem.
Following the stampede and consequent fatalities at Elphinstone Railway Station, security measures and the safety of passengers has been on top of the priority list of railway officials. The railway minister also announced that the ministry has already sanctioned funds for the construction of 370 escalators and CCTVs meant to be installed in all the trains and train stations in Mumbai city. This shall help security monitoring and mitigate accidents. The railway ministry is additionally working on addition of new local lines and on the much touted bullet train launch.