On Mumbai tracks, new isn’t always better

New trains were supposed to make your commute more comfortable, but it seems they are falling apart, reports Rajendra Aklekar.

india Updated: Feb 04, 2009 01:03 IST
Rajendra Aklekar
Rajendra Aklekar
Hindustan Times

It’s been just over a year since they were introduced, but the new suburban trains have started crumbling under the immense passenger load (‘super dense crush load’ in railway terms). Every day, Mumbai’s trains ferry 65 lakh passengers to their destinations.

Two of these commuters, engineering student Akshay Marathe and finance manager Abhishek Risbud, listed the flaws in the new trains in letters to the manufacturer, Integral Coach Factory (ICF), and the Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation (MRVC) that is coordinating the introduction of new trains with World Bank funding under the Rs 4,500-crore Mumbai Urban Transport Project-1.

The city will get 174 of these new trains — the first was introduced on November 12, 2007 — to replace the entire existing fleet of 170. So far, 38 have arrived. At least 30 of them are in active service during peak hours, ferrying over 50 per cent of the load.

The railways claim to have set a world record by manufacturing four to five 12-car trains in a month. But in doing so, they seem to have assembled and dispatched them in a tearing hurry, compromising quality.

“I understand new trains are badly required. [But] ICF is taking undue advantage by turning out poor quality rakes,” said Borivli resident Marathe.

Passengers agree. “Quality was compromised. Old trains were sturdy and lasted over 25 years. MRVC should inspect trains before introducing them,” said Dipak Gandhi, of the Mumbai Suburban Passengers’ Association.

Added Shailesh Goel, of the Western Railway’s Zonal Railway Users Consultative Committee: “The trains have begun to rust. They seem light-weight and delicate.”

Madhu Kotian, of the Mumbai Pravasi Sangh, another commuter body, had a unique perspective: “The new trains only look like Madhuri Dixit, but in reality they are an example of poor workmanship.”

Risbud said commuters have never opposed technological improvements, but quality and safety were paramount.

“Rs 20 crore of public money was spent on the trains, but commuters don’t feel they have got their money’s worth,” he said.

First Published: Feb 04, 2009 01:02 IST