The Bombay high court has directed the Maharashtra government and the Railways to conduct a survey to understand its daily passenger demographic on local trains. Reason: The court wants it to come up with ways to regulate the crowd in local trains.
“Why do so many people travel towards south Mumbai each day? Why are the local trains so overcrowded even during non-peak hours? Unless you conduct a survey and find out who are the people using your trains, what their needs are, you cannot come up with a solution.” said a bench comprising justice Naresh Patil and justice SB Shukre.
The bench was hearing a suo motu public interest litigation (PIL), which was converted out of a letter written to the court by a senior citizen AB Thakker, urging the reservation of a separate compartment for senior citizens.
During the hearing, the Central and Western Railways, through an affidavit filed in the high court, informed the bench that while it had reserved seats in all compartments for senior citizens, a separate compartment for them would not be feasible considering the already overcrowded local trains and the current infrastructure.
The affidavit stated that around 40 lakh passengers use the local trains each day. It also stated between 2006 and 2015, the number of daily passengers in the local trains increased by 20%, while the carrying capacity increased by 33.7%. It said that between these years, the railways introduced 15 new trains and added 17,000 new coaches on the local train network.
Advocate Suresh Kumar, the counsel for Western Railways also told the court the rail services “during peak hours are already saturated and there is no path currently available for introducing additional service.”
“Introduction of additional services can be possible only after completion of the 5th and 6th line project between Kalyan and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Main under the Mumbai Urban Transport Project by Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation,” Kumar said.
It is then that high court suggested the authorities contemplate hiring a private consultant to conduct a passenger survey.
For senior citizens in local trains, the court said the railways should look into creating a compartment where younger people and those travelling short distances could stand and travel so that space could be freed up to provide seating for senior citizens. The court has granted the authorities two months’ time to look into its suggestions.