Local train services must start in phases, say expertsUpdated: May 23, 2020 01:01 IST
The Covid-19 outbreak may change commute in the city’s most used public transport — the local trains.
Local trains, known to be Mumbai’s lifeline, carry more than 80 lakh passengers every day. However, the services have been suspended from March 22 after the increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in the city.
On an average, one 12-compartment local train ferries more than 5,000 commuters during normal hours and close to 7,000 during peak hours. Under the circumstances, maintaining social distancing inside local trains seems like a pipe dream. Experts have suggested capacity reduction in trains, having access control, screening passengers, location mapping of passengers, application to track health details of passengers and inspection inside the compartment for crowding as part of the bouquet of solutions to resume local train services.
“Local train services should be introduced in phases. It is very crucial to have crowd and access control inside the compartments as well. In the first phase, local train services only for essential workers in the city should resume, and later train services for general public should be resumed but with restrictions,” said transport expert AV Shenoy.
Former Central Railway general manager and retired Railway board member Subodh Jain said a protocol for commuting in public transport needs to be put in place.
“Mumbai cannot restart until the local trains restart. Protocol for commuting in public transport needs to be decided. Mobile application, screening of passengers or a certificate that the person is fit to commute could be put in place. As the ticket examiner checks tickets inside trains and on stations, the examiners should be the authority. Local trains can be permitted but with identification on who will be allowed to travel,’’ said Jain.
Introduction of more buses with social distancing for plying of passengers in the city should be done and then similar implementation should be done in the case of local trains. “We are unlikely to see local trains resuming for another one month. Buses should be initially introduced as the primary mode of transport in the city. School buses should also be brought in to facilitate movement of passengers. After seeing the reaction to social distancing maintained in the buses, train services should be introduced,’’ said transport expert Ashok Datar.
Passenger associations have said that after train services are resumed, the government should look into changing office timings. “Local trains play a crucial role in the city’s public transport system. However, overcrowding will lead to spread of the virus rampantly. Changing office timings and allowing people to work from home is the only solution for reducing crowd,” said Subhash Gupta, president, Rail Yatri Parishad.
Meanwhile, the Central Railway resumed two pairs of toy train services between Matheran and Aman Lodge railway station on Friday.
The trains have been introduced in order to transport goods from Aman Lodge to Matheran. 105 packages of 2,700 kg were transported on Friday. “All safety norms including social distancing, use of mask and sanitisers, and thermal screenings were strictly followed.” said a Central Railway official.
Local services for staff involved in Shramik and passenger train operations
Railways have started local train services for its own employees who are involved in the operation of Shramik and passenger trains. The National Railway Mazdoor Union (NRMU) has, however, asked railway authorities to increase local train services in order to maintain social distancing.
“Maintaining social distancing is not happening in the current local train operations. A video has been circulating which shows minimum social distancing inside compartments. We have asked railway authorities to start more trains and compel 100% attendance. Railway authorities should also check on who is travelling in trains,” Said Venu Nair, general secretary, NRMU.