Maharashtra government, railways to allow Mumbai local train commute for all women passengers from coming week?Updated: Oct 18, 2020, 00:13 IST
Women commuters in the city may be allowed to travel by suburban trains from next week. A meeting of state government officials and Central (CR) and Western Railway (WR) authorities is likely early next week, to discuss the matter.
As part of its Mission Begin Again, the Maharashtra government on Friday wrote to Railway authorities, to allow women commuters to travel by local trains during stipulated hours from October 17. Prior to this, in a meeting held last week between state officials and Railway authorities, the subject of allowing women commuters was briefly mentioned. “Allowing women passengers to travel by local trains was mentioned in the meetings. However, there was no concrete discussion regarding permitting them,” said a senior official who had attended the meeting.
After receiving the state’s proposal on Friday, CR and WR said this was not immediately possible. “We have received a request letter from the state government and have processed the same. Once approval is received from the Railway Board, we will allow women passengers to travel by local trains,” said Shivaji Sutar, chief public relations officer, CR.
Railway officials have raised concerns over the state’s suggestion that women be allowed to travel between 11am to 3pm and from 7pm till midnight. “The timing that has been given makes it tricky as in the evening, women passengers could arrive before 7pm and wait, leading to overcrowding. An estimate of the increased number of passengers is crucial as services will be increased in a similar manner. We are looking into allowing women commuters to travel from next week after discussions with state government officials,” said a senior Railway official.
Meanwhile, passenger associations have welcomed the idea, but reiterated the need to maintain social distancing on trains. “This will reduce crowding in buses and other vehicles. However, before allowing passengers, proper provisions should be made to ensure social distancing and there is no overcrowding inside train compartments,” said Lata Argade, secretary, Suburban Railway Passenger Association.
Mumbai’s local trains, used by around 8 million people daily pre-Covid-19, were suspended on March 23 after the state went into a lockdown to stop the spread of the virus. Some services, however, resumed on June 15, with the state allowing only essential services workers, differently-abled people and cancer patients to use the trains. At present, CR operates 481 daily services, while WR runs 700 services as compared to their regular of 1,774 and 1,367 respectively. CR and WR operate two ladies’ special trains each. In a 12-compartment local train, nearly 30% is reserved as women compartments. The combinations may differ from service to service, but there are usually two and a half general compartments and three quarter-size first class compartments for women.