The world’s first “Ladies Special” suburban train competed 25 years this week and the Western Railway (WR), which started the service, termed it as a “milestone” in its long journey.
The WR started the maiden train exclusively for women commuters on May 5, 1992. It was first such train service in the world.
Divya Darji a Virar commuter told this newspaper “Anybody who has travelled by local trains in Mumbai would recognize the terror of getting into a Virar train during peak hours. Especially if you are a woman and have only three designated compartments in a train, this train has given us lots of comfort, though this also goes over populated.”
The service, started between Churchgate and Borivali and later extended to Virar, was well-received by the commuters, who were till then forced to travel in cramped regular ladies compartments. Since then, the train has been serving thousands of women commuters daily.
Kali Joshi a commuter said, “Ladies Special needs improvement, it’s been 25 years but the condition of the train is same. Woman commuter’s needs to be more sensitive towards other woman, there are always fights in the train, at times no security guard. Some groups randomly take charge.”
Meenakshi Kirnahake has recently shifted to Nalasopara from Wadala said, “In my initial days I travelled through the normal trains from Andheri to Nalasopara, it was really difficult and hectic task, than I was told by other ladies commuters that I should wait and board the Ladies Special train, since than I have been travelling through the ladies special only.”
“The women there gossip about personal issues to sharing recipes and even chopping vegetables. I doubt one can experience this anywhere else other than these Ladies Special trains”, Meenakshi added.
Kanchan Navare who commutes every day to Prabhadevi feels, “The railways should introduce every alternate train a Ladies Special so the men and women can board equally and avoid the rush.”
Terming the train as a “milestone” in its eventful journey, the WR, which came into existence on November 5, 1951, said it was a boon for women commuters.
The WR started the maiden train exclusively for women commuters on May 5, 1992. It was first such train service in the world. The 1990’s saw immense industrial and commercial growth towards the southern side of Mumbai and an increase in number of working women.
Western Railway Chief PRO Ravinder Bhakar said when it was flagged off, the “Ladies Special” was welcomed with great enthusiasm by women who were till then forced to travel in cramped regular ladies compartments of the suburban trains.
“The 1990’s witnessed huge industrial and commercial boom towards South Mumbai with an increase in the number of working women commuting from the suburbs. The Ladies Special trains helped them commute more comfortably and safely,” Bhakar explained.
At present, the WR operates eight ladies special services daily, divided equally during the morning and evening peak hours between the up and down lines, said the official.