Mumbai local trains to open for all soon, says CM Uddhav Thackeray
The Maharashtra government has begun brainstorming over resuming the local rail services for all in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) and announced that it will start operations for the general public soon.
Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray held a high-level meeting with key officials from the government, railways, municipal corporations and health department to take stock of the situation. The government is expected to allow the general public to take local trains in limited time slots beginning from non-peak hours. The operations are expected to begin in the next few days.
“The trains will soon be open for all. The risk of the Covid-19 spread has not yet ended. The possibilities and aspects to take the idea forward were discussed in today’s meeting,” a statement issued by the chief minister’s office stated.
According to officials privy to the development, the state government, which was wary of opening railway operations for the general public so far, has now been convinced that it was time to begin the services. “The positivity rate in MMR has dropped below 5% and infection rate too is too low. All the departments and even the civic bodies in MMR were of the opinion that by taking measures to control the crowd, railway operations could be started in a staggered manner,” said an official who did not want to be named.
The government is expected to allow commuters first during non-peak hours, before 7am and after 10pm, to begin with. “Crowding during the hours in which women are allowed has increased. Based on that experience, the operations will be allowed in calibrated manners,” the official said.
Government and railway officials have been asked to tap the measures that need to be taken to control crowd. “Staggering office hours has almost been ruled out as it is not an idea that could be implemented in MMR. Colour coding and time slotting and their monitoring is a tedious job, but could be considered,” said another officer.
Once the decision is taken, the state government will inform the railways, which in turn will seek permission from the Railway ministry. Railways officials have reportedly told the government that they would not require more than a day to resume 100% operations from the current operation of 85% services. The officials, however, said that the state government should have mechanism in place for crowd control.
At present, select categories of people including essential services workers and women are allowed to board suburban trains.