The slowest suburban train in China runs at 100 kmph. That, in comparison, is the fastest that a train can run on Mumbai’s suburban network that ferries 70 lakh commuters a day.
Yet, there is hope. The Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP) hopes to transform your journey to work and back, with more space inside trains, better ventilation and separate tracks for long-distance trains, allowing suburban trains to run faster.
The crush inside our trains during peak hour is intense. Nearly 4,000 commuters pack into a coach — nearly thrice its capacity. There is a drastic need for newer lines on the Central and Western railways.
Satish Subramanium, a mediaperson from Bhandup, travels every day by Central Railway (CR) to work at Byculla. “I have been watching the work between Kurla and Thane for nearly 15 years. There is no sign of its [the fifth and sixth lines] completion,” he said.
This stretch is part of MUTP’s Phase 1. Two additional lines on the Kurla-Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) stretch are part of MUTP Phase 2, which is expected to be ready by 2016. Officials are struggling to complete the last leg of the fifth and sixth lines on the Kurla-Thane stretch; its deadline is this month-end. “We will complete the lines soon,” said Kul Bhushan, general manager of CR, who has additional charge of Western Railway (WR).
CR failed to get the necessary permissions from the commissioner of railway safety during his visit on January 26. Officials blamed the procedure for rehabilitating project-affected people.
There is no fifth line between Mahim and Santacruz, while a sixth line has been proposed between Mumbai Central and Borivli.
A Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation official said on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media: “We would begin laying the fifth and sixth lines simultaneously on these stretches as part of MUTP Phase 2.”
The plan is to use four lines for slow and fast suburban trains, while the fifth and sixth lines would be used only by long-distance trains. This would allow the number of services and train speeds to increase.
Also, most trains would be converted to 15-car. Currently, Western Railway (WR) is running 15-car fast trains on the Churchgate-Virar route. These trains carry 33% more commuters than 12-car ones.
CR is also experimenting with 15-car trains. It is converting all its trains to 12-car, an exercise it hopes to end by August.
Some officials said they might even run 18-car trains, which would stop only at select stations. “Although it is possible to have 18-car trains, there might be safety issues as the guard may not be able to view all the coaches from the tail end,” said railway expert Prakash Tendulkar.