The Indian Railways’ first AC local train ran in Mumbai on December 25, 2017 under the Western Railway zone in Mumbai. The AC local train completed its two years on 25 December, 2019. The air-conditioned train has received a good response from Mumbaikars as during the last two years, this AC EMU train has earned Rs.40.03 crore from 95.81 lakh passengers. Looking at the success, the Central Railway is in plans to extend the AC trains on other routes. The long cherished dream of Mumbaikars finally became a reality on December 25, 2017 when the country’s first and only air-conditioned suburban train started its maiden run from Borivali and headed to its destination at Churchgate. The ‘air conditioned local train’ has state-of-the-art security features that consists of automatic door closing system, talk back system and fire fighting system in each coach etc.
Though the ridership of the AC local was minimal in the early days, but slowly and steadily, it started gaining momentum and became a major hit among the commuters during the sweltering summer months. The AC local train initially was running between Churchgate and Virar with a total 12 services (6 services in UP & 6 services in DOWN direction) on all days except on Saturdays and Sundays when it is taken up for maintenance but w.e.f. 14th September, 2019, it is also running on Saturdays and Sundays making available the cool journey to Mumbaikars on all 7 days of the week. Out of these 12 services, 8 run as fast local trains between Churchgate and Virar while 3 fast services run between Churchgate and Borivali. The remaining one service runs as slow service from Mahalaxmi to Borivali stopping at all intermediate stations.
For the convenience of ladies, senior citizens and Divyangjans, separate coaches have been reserved for ladies and similarly seats have also been earmarked for senior citizens/Divyangs. The 1st and 12th coach from Churchgate end are reserved as ladies coaches and 7 seats in 2nd and 11th coach from Churchgate end are earmarked for senior citizens while 10 seats in 4th and 7th coach from the Churchgate end are earmarked for Divyangs. Primarily, the ticket price for a single journey on the AC train was 1.2 times that of the same journey in first class as an introductory offer, but w.e.f. 1st June, 2019 it was decided as 1.3 times of the base fare of existing single journey of Ist class ticket. Unlike regular local trains, the AC EMU service has the facility of special weekly and fortnightly season tickets. From the time of its inception on December 25, 2017 to December 25, 2019, so far 95.81 lakh passengers have travelled by the AC local, generating revenue of Rs.40.03 crore. On an average, approximately 18,000 passengers travel daily by AC local with about 1,500 passengers travelling in each service. During the period of two years from December 25, 2017, the total sale of tickets for AC local train was 8,43,343 out of which 6,62,565 were journey tickets while 1,80,778 were season tickets. Similarly, total 95,80,824 passengers travelled in AC local trains during this period out of which 6,81,134 travelled with journey tickets and 88,99,690 travelled with season tickets.
In this period, AC local trains have generated a revenue of Rs.40, 03,48,944 out of which Rs. 11,00,81,022 was generated through journey tickets while Rs.29,02,67,922 was received from season tickets. The AC local earlier had limited halts. Later, the Western Railway zone provided additional halts to the AC local at Marine Lines, Charni Rd, Grant Rd, Dahisar, Mira Rd, Naigaon & Nallasopara stations in both directions in addition to its previous halts at Mumbai Central, Dadar, Bandra, Andheri, Borivali, Bhayander and Vasai Rd stations with the introduction of new suburban time-table which came into effect from November 1, 2018.With the introduction of these additional halts, commuters have shown greater patronage for the AC local train. This has generated additional revenue to the Railways. For example, 5.49 local from Churchgate to Borivali has been replaced with the new AC local. So, it’s crowd has now shifted to either 5.52 or 5.58 local.
Additionally, the climate now is cool and AC is not required. In summers may be or in rains people who can afford to travel in AC local may use it. The newly started local trains in Mumbai is running empty because it is quite expensive as compared to other local trains. For example, if a normal local train takes Rs 10 from location A To B, the newly started air conditioned train will take about Rs 80-100 for the same distance and location. Moreover, as it is the Winter season, people don’t need air conditioner right now but in the summer season, I think this train will be a little crowded.
The problem is around the tight schedule of the locals. For regular locals, boarding and alighting is done even if the train is not completely at standstill. In case of AC locals, the train must completely stop before the doors can open and the doors must close before the train can start. The wait for the door operation causes an extra few seconds of delay at every stop. And the existing locals don’t have adequate power to overcome the delay with additional acceleration. This delay is the reason you cannot add a few AC coaches to the regular local. However, the new generation locals from 2019 are provided with extra power and acceleration to compensate for delay caused by the opening and closing of the doors. Of course, the new generation locals are yet to be tested in real Mumbai traffic. One line of thought proposes all locals to be converted to AC with extra power without increasing the fare. But will the public accept this?
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