Over seven months after it decided to shut down suburban train services during the lockdown, the Maharashtra government on October 28 had written to the Railways proposing that the general public be allowed to travel by Mumbai local trains during non-peak hours while following Covid-19 norms. The Railways recently announced that it will run 753 more services on the Mumbai suburban train system but gave no indication on when it would allow the general public to use these services. The delay by the ministry has miffed state government officials, who blamed it for deliberately delaying the decision on starting the local trains for the general public.
The government is miffed with the Railways for not taking a call on opening the services for the general public. “Did they seek our permission to start additional services from today? Isn’t there an issue of crowd management and social distancing? The Railways is deliberately delaying the decision as the request has been made by the state government,” a senior government official said, adding a meeting would be held with Railways officials early next week.
Over the last few days, the Railways has made announcements about how it was planning to increase services on the suburban train system. It has, however, not yet announced whether the general public will be allowed to use these services. On Saturday, the Railways announced that the Central Railway (CR) and the Western Railway (WR) will run an additional 610 local services in Mumbai, increasing daily services from 1,410 to 2,020. On Sunday, it announced that it will run an additional 753 suburban services, increasing the total services that operate on the suburban lines from 2,020 to 2,773. Pre-lockdown, the Railways ran 3,141 services a day, operating on an average frequency of around one every four minutes, ferrying around 7.8 million commuters daily.
Meanwhile, in a joint statement, CR and WR said that the Railways has given inputs on making the services available to the general public as asked by the state government the same day. “The Railways is hoping that the state government will revert soon, deciding on the modalities for providing services to the commuters in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region,” said the statement. It added that “Railways is subsequently increasing suburban services keeping in view the social distance norms and safety of the public at large”.
The Railways now operates 2,773 suburban services, with an addition of 753 suburban services to the existing 2020 with effect from Monday, it said. An additional 552 suburban services on CR will be added to the existing 1,020, taking the total to 1,572 services. Also, 201 suburban services on WR will be added to the existing 1,000.