One year of Mumbai’s AC local: Train rakes in the money, commuters
The city’s first and lone air-conditioned (AC) local train’s initial year on the city’s tracks reported an official average of 17,000 daily commuters and₹16.77 crore in revenue.
With 12 trips operated every day by the Western Railway (WR) since December 25, 2017, and the ₹58-crore rake’s capacity at 1,028 passengers seated and 6,000 standing, these numbers are good news for the Railways ministry. Good enough for it to keep fares unchanged and plan a new and improved rake to arrive in the city by January-end.
More than three lakh regular-ticket holders use the AC train, which runs between Churchgate and Virar.
Authorities reported a substantial increase in passengers from October 2018 after the WR introduced additional halts, taking the total up to 13. An average of 15,000 passengers used the local daily in August and September, which increased up to 17,872 in October.
The AC local train has contributed a major chunk — ₹16.77 crore — to the WR’s earnings. “Despite the discounted AC fares, the train is one of the major earners in the financial year,” said a senior WR official. Meanwhile, according to insiders, the new AC local to arrive by January-end will have all its electrical equipment in the underslung and will be a completely vestibuled train, which means the cars will have enclosed vestibules at their ends, in contrast
to the open ones for the earlier cars. The Railway Board, the apex body of all zonal railways, in a letter addressing CR and WR in November, stated, “An AC local train with an underslung is being manufactured for the first time. Production of ten trains will be initiated only after the introduction of a prototype.”
The improved underslung will increase the capacity of the train up to 2,000 additional commuters. “The new AC rake will leave from the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in the first week of January and will undergo trials. We are sending the prototype of the new rake to the WR, where post the Research Design Standards Organisation trial, will be introduced on the tracks. The train, apart from increased capacity, also has improved acceleration.” said Shubhranshu, principal chief mechanical engineer, ICF, Chennai.
“With the introduction of new AC trains next year, the Railways are likely to replace the existing local trains with AC ones. However, this will affect passengers using the normal trains. Authorities should replace three compartments of 15-coach local trains with AC ones, which will be useful to both passengers and the Railways,” said Subhash Gupta, president, Rail Yatri Parishad. In 2019-2020, the city will get an AC train with electrics underslung, 12 AC local trains and 36 trains to have both AC and non-AC compartments.
15-coach trials conducted on Belapur route
To check the feasibility of running 15-coach local trains, the Central Railways (CR) conducted late-night trials in Navi Mumbai last week. It was learnt from officials that the CR conducted the trials of 15-coach locals on the newly opened corridor between Belapur-Kharkopar-Nerul stations on Wednesday.
“The trials were mainly to understand technical issues in running the locals,” said a railway officer. Confirming this, a railway spokesperson said the trial WAS conducted on a newly-commissioned line as it has less traffic as compared to other suburban corridors.
With the objective of increasing the passenger-carrying capacity of suburban services by 25%, the first 15-coach trains were introduced on the Western Railway (WR) since 21 November 2009, while CR launched it three years later, from October 16, 2012.
Ahead of next year’s Lok Sabha elections, Railway minister Piyush Goyal had last month directed both CR and WR to prepare a long-term plan for adding more 15-coach locals. Acting on it, CR has already prepared a ₹483-crore plan to run more 15-coach trains on the suburban network. Even WR has prepared a ₹490-crore plan for 15-coach local.
In its proposal, WR has planned 22 new 15-coach services, but the CR has no such plan. The railway officer said that lakh of adequate infrastructure was the main reason. “We have only one platform at CSMT for accommodating a 15-coach local and there is no scope for it at Kalyan,” said the officer. Presently, WR is operating 54 services with four 15-car trains between Churchgate and Virar. CR, however, is operating 16 services, with one 15-coach train in the CSMT-Kalyan section.