Mumbai: Mumbai’s suburban trains, which restarted operations after a two-month hiatus, saw only about 45% of the estimated passenger traffic use the service on Monday. Railway officials say that they expect this passenger numbers to grow through the week, as more people start become comfortable taking public transport again.
On Sunday night, the state government announced that the local trains, Mumbai’s lifeline, will resume services, but only for essential staff identified by the government. The government had estimated that a maximum of 1.25 lakh passengers will be use the service on the Western lines and Central lines (mainline and Harbour).
By 6 pm on Monday, however, the numbers showed that the actual number of passengers was a fraction of what the government had estimated. The western line had reported 35,000-40,000 passengers using the service while the Central line had reported 14,000 passengers, bringing the total to below 55,000.
“Since the announcement came late in the evening on Sunday, not many people knew that the locals had resumed service,” a spokesperson for Central Railways told Mint. “We expect the number of passengers to go up during the week.”
In order to maintain social distancing norms, police have been stationed at every station to restrict the number the passengers entering the station at a given point in time. They also check the IDs of passengers to make sure they are essential workers or have government permit.
Deepak Dubey, an essential worker who travelled by the local train on Monday, tweeted about his experience. When he took the train in the morning, he said: “The railways have sealed all entrances/exits and only one common entrance with a police checkpoint is open.” By the evening, on his return journey, he tweeted that “social distancing norms had gone for a toss. There were three people on one seat and some passengers were even standing.”
However, Sheila Singh a nurse who travels to her hospital from Kurla to the Mumbai’s Marine Lines station, said local trains have come as a relief. “We had to stand for a bus for hours which was tiring. Local trains are not only a relief but also save us time.”
The railways have lost considerable revenue by shutting their services for over two months through the nation-wide lockdown. The western railways alone has lost potential revenue of ₹118 crore by not operating its Mumbai suburban services, according to a press release.
Up to 73 pairs of suburban services, which include eight pairs between Virar and Dahanu Road, ran from Monday. The trains will operated from 5.30 am to 11.30 pm with a 15-minute interval. The trains, however, halted only at select railway stations.
To allow adequate social distancing in the coaches, unlike its seating capacity to accommodate about 1200 persons, only about 700 are to be allowed per train, the government has said. The state government has said it would stagger the timings of its offices for workers coming from different areas to ensure there is no crowding at the stations and inside the trains.
Government workers and office goers have so far taken BEST buses, the city’s public bus system, to reach their workplaces from June 8, when the state entered its Unlock 1 mode. The resumption of train travel is likely to take some pressure off the public bus system where cases of overcrowding have been reported.