Railway rush-hour: Can Mumbai offices time it better after Elphinstone Road stampede?mumbai Updated: Oct 02, 2017 21:39 IST
The bridge where stampede happened at Elphinstone road in Mumbai on September 29, 2017. (Satyabrata Tripathy/HT Photo)
While pushing for big ticket projects, former railway minister Suresh Prabhu had emphasised on the need for staggering office timings in the city, to reduce peak-hour overcrowding on local rail network. However, the railways and state authorities failed to explore the option.
About 80 lakh people travel daily on 3,000 suburban services operated by the Central Railway and the Western Railway. On an average, 10 people die on the suburban network daily, mostly due to falling from the overcrowded trains.
Despite running trains at every three to four minutes during peak hours (8am to 11am and 5pm to 9pm) suburban trains remain jam packed. Many passengers travel hanging on doors risking their lives.
Among the many solutions being discussed for reducing overcrowding on suburban trains, staggering timetable was one of the low-cost solutions experts were proposing since decades. Prabhu had strongly advocated staggering office timings for reducing burden on rail network, during his entire tenure.
He had even appealed to the state government to work towards staggering of office timings to reduce peak load on suburban traffic, while presenting railway budget for 2016-2017. Thereafter he had discussed the issue with chief minister Devendra Fadanvis during the review meeting held in April 2016.
According to railway sources, Prabhu had directed Rail India Technical and Economic Service (RITES) to prepare a draft report on staggering of work hours so that peak hour rush is reduced. Accordingly, the draft report was submitted to railway board in September 2016 for review and was also forwarded to state government. However, the state authorities, so far have not given any response to this report.
The preliminary draft report on staggered work hours suggested that organisations, which don’t have direct public-contact for example back-office, IT, manufacturing, corporates and accountancy should encourage the employees to work from home. The organisation can also stagger the week-off, for example some organisation can give Saturday-Sunday or Sunday-Monday off.
Railway officials however, are sceptical about the results. According to them, Mumbaikars are reluctant to adopt any change as far as their daily commute is concerned. This they have experienced when they tried to experiment high carrying capacity coaches but the Mumbaikars still prefer 3X3 seating arrangement.