Experts and state officials are of the opinion that suburban train travel is one of the reasons behind the spike in Covid-19 cases in Mumbai and neighbouring areas, in the past few days. (Anshuman Poyrekar/HT Photo)
Experts and state officials are of the opinion that suburban train travel is one of the reasons behind the spike in Covid-19 cases in Mumbai and neighbouring areas, in the past few days. (Anshuman Poyrekar/HT Photo)

Maharashtra govt may restrict train travel for general public again in Mumbai

Maharashtra government is considering imposing restrictions again on the local train commuting on suburban trains in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) amid the upsurge in the cases in the region over the last two weeks
By Surendra P Gangan and Aroosa Ahmed
PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 11:57 PM IST

Maharashtra government is considering imposing restrictions again on the local train commuting on suburban trains in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) amid the upsurge in the cases in the region over the last two weeks. The decision is likely after a review of the cases in the next few days and the state government may either reduce the allotted time slots for the general public or completely revoke the permission allowing people working in essential services only.

Relief and rehabilitation minister Vijay Wadettiwar said on Friday that the state government was thinking of rescheduling the train timing in the wake of the rising cases. “We will not completely restrict the general public from commuting on the train, but will reschedule the timings,” he said.

Experts and state officials are of the opinion that suburban train travel is one of the reasons behind the spike in Covid-19 cases in Mumbai and neighbouring areas, in the past few days. Since the suburban train services were reopened for the general public during non-peak hours on February 1, an average of three million commuters has been travelling by the same. Crowded trains are being seen as one reason behind the spike.

According to the officials from the state government, the review is expected to be taken next week. “It is true that the crowding in local trains is one of the reasons for the upsurge in the Covid-19 cases in the MMR. The number of passengers in all three lines has increased four times after the general public was allowed to travel in local trains from February 1. The state government either revoke the permission given to the general public completely or reduce the allotted time slot reduce the crowding in the locals,” the official said requesting anonymity.

Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, in his televised address last Sunday, had said that the decision over the lockdown will be taken in eight days after reviewing the situation of the Covid-19 cases spread.

The state government allowed the general public to travel in non-peak hours excluding 9am to 12 pm and 4pm to 9pm from February 1. This resulted in around 3.3 million passengers travelling every day on three lines in local train services. 2 million passengers travel by Central Railway and 1.3 million passengers travel by Western Railway.

Before the general public was allowed, the trains travel was restricted to the workforce from essential and emergency services and women travellers in stipulated time slot. The footfall of these passengers in local trains till February 1 was 8 million. Women commuters were allowed to travel from October 21 last year between 11am and 3pm and after 7pm.

The cases in MMR rose to 1976 on February 25 from 1075 cases two weeks ago on February 10. “The crowding in the trains is one of the reasons for the rise in the cases. Passengers travelling from Thane, Kalyan-Dombivali, Vasai-Virar, Navi Mumbai may lead to the spread across the MMR,” said an official from the health department.

Presently, the Central Railway operates 1685 local train services while the Western Railway operates 1300 local train services.

Before lockdown was imposed in March last year owing to the coronavirus outbreak, the Central Railway operated 1,774 train services and the Western Railway operated 1,367 train services.

Railway authorities have stated they have not received any proposal from the state government regarding the suspension of trains. “We have not received any proposal from the state government regarding the suspension of local trains,” said Shivaji Sutar, chief public relation officer, Central Railway.

Passenger associations have stated that they would protest along with commuters if train services are suspended. “The reason for the increase of coronavirus cases are not just local trains. There has been no direct link and if the state government decides to suspend the train services we will protest against the same on the railway tracks. Local train operations are important for the economy.” said Subhash Gupta, president, Rail Yatri Parishad.

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