Lifeline Without Timeline: Passengers Union indicates protest as 100-day deadline concludes

Central Railways had asked for 100 days to resolve the issues regarding its punctuality. As there has been no change in its service after 100 days, the President of a Passengers Union, Nandkumar Deshmukh indicates a possible protest at Azad Maidan

Lifeline Without Timeline: Passengers Union indicates protest as 100-day deadline concludes

Local train service in Mumbai stands to define the city's public transport but the service on the Central line seems to have become an 'extremely shoddy experience' for many passengers. Railways is one of cheapest options available for commuters in Mumbai but its ever-growing late schedule and casual attitude, especially in the central line has resulted in Mumbai lifeline turning into service without a timeline.

This is not the first time Central Railway has been criticised for its untimely service as a group of commuters had announced rail Roko Andolan. Facing a barrage of criticism, the rail authorities had asked the Central line commuters to draw back their protest and provide them with 100 days to ensure the local train service becomes punctual. This was on June 26 when the commuters had called off the protests after assurance from the authorities.

However, the 100-day deadline ended on October 4, and the condition hasn't changed for the Central Railway commuters. My experience with the railways has also been quite similar. I recently travelled from Dombivali to Dadar on four days,  i.e. between September 16 and 20, just to see if the train service had gotten any better but the local trains service was late for all the four days. 

  • On September 16, the CSMT local which was scheduled to reach at 10:39 am at Dadar, actually reached at 10:57 am.
  • Maintaining the consistency, the next day, on September 17, the CSMT local which was scheduled to reach at 10:39 am at Dadar, actually reached at 10:57 am.
  • On September 19, the CSMT local which was scheduled to reach at 11:15 am at Dadar, actually reached at 11:26 am
  • On September 20, the CSMT local which was scheduled to reach at 11:15 am at Dadar, actually reached at 11:31 am.

Every time, the Central Railway authorities claim that they care about the safety of the commuter. However, when the local trains are late, people are forced to rush in trains in order to meet the office or work timings which eventually leads in the commuters falling off the trains. So does it mean that the assurances from the rail corporation are a mere facade?

One of the leading reasons behind the daily delay is the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC)'s unfulfilled projects. The MRVC had sanctioned the installation of the fifth and sixth railway line for express trains in 2008 but that project seems to have turned into a lost cause. It has also been noticed that all the express trains which run on the existing four lines immensely disrupted the Central Railway schedule.

While the rail corporation has always introduced initiatives to make he transport safer, its implementation has been rather pathetic and hasty. One of the most commendable projects it has undertaken is the Kalyan Junction revamping under the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP) 3A initiative. This move was introduced to decongest the station and alongside it was expected that the authorities will be taking other measures to segregate the local and outstation train traffic.

However, the question is that until the project does not see the light of the day, will the problem of express trains stay persistent? Voicing his opinion about the same, the President of Upnagariya Railway Pravasi Ekta Sangh (Maha Sangh), Nandkumar Deshmukh told Mumbai Live, "They should stop running express trains if they are unable to manage the schedule. It is pointless to try to hold on to it. Due to this, every day on an average 20-30 trains are cancelled on Central Railway."

Meanwhile, one of the major causes for hindering the Central Railway schedule has been the monsoon in Mumbai. But Mr. Deshmukh believes that rains are not responsible for the delay. He further added, "During summer, they blame the tracks. During winter, they blame the fog. And during monsoon, they tend to shift the entire blame on Mumbai rains. I only have one question for them. What do they do during Megablocks? Isn't a megablock on Sunday supposed to ensure that the problems don't arise for the rest of the week?"

Interestingly, after the trains get late and overcrowded during peak hours, a Central Railway commuter is unable to point out the difference between a First Class compartment and Second Class compartment, had it not been for the signs painted outside the compartments.

Meanwhile, as the deadline of 100 days has concluded, Central Railway is probably staring at a protest from the passengers. Deshmukh told Mumbai Live that as the 100 days are over, he is planning to unify Central Railway Passengers' Unions and stage a protest at the Azad Maidan. "If given the opportunity, we can stage a Rail Roko Aandolan tomorrow. But since the Code of Conduct for Maharashtra Assembly Elections has been imposed, we have decided to wait for a while. Also, we do not want to cause any hassles to the passengers during Diwali," he said.

He claimed that copies of a four-page letter describing the cause of the protest has already been sent to Collector's Office, Police Commissioner's Office, Railway Minister's Office, DRM's Office and acopy has also been forwarded to Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.

Meanwhile, it can be understood that the issue cannot be resolved in a single day, but taking a small step by making the train schedule accurate can become a path-bearer towards a greater change.

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