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Deccan Queen going off-track?Regular passengers believe train is losing its sheen on speed, stink and food 

While the train is often flooded with commuters, the 88-year-old train no longer enjoys the same status among regulars.

pune Updated: Aug 04, 2018 16:54 IST
Shalaka Shinde
Shalaka Shinde
Hindustan Times, Pune
Deccan Queen,off-track,passengers
Passengers keep their legs on the seat as they don't have much legroom in the coaches of Ladies compartment with season ticket on Deccan Queen express in Pune.(Shankar Narayan/HT PHOTO)

The Deccan Queen Express, which was considered as a golden standard for non-stop, speedy travel between Mumbai and Pune, is plagued by the frequent delays, declining food quality and stench in most compartments, according to the frequent users of the express.

While the train is often flooded with commuters, the 88-year-old train no longer enjoys the same status among regulars. Between 7:05 am and 7:15 am, the number of passengers in the pass-holders’ compartments fill up with speed, whereas the passengers who travel seldom or are travelling for the first time, are seen occupying the reservation compartments even before 6:45 am.

The train’s departure timing from Pune station is 7:15 am, while its official arrival timing is 10:25 am at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT). On the return journey, it departs at 5:10 pm from CSMT and reaches Pune at 20:25 pm. Of late, the train is often delayed causing problems to employees working in Mumbai.

“My shift starts at 10:25 am, so I am bound to be late. However, when the train gets late, it pushes my time further,” said Poonam Mandake, 28, who works at the Mumbai police commissioner’s office and has been travelling in the express train for the past three years.

Toilets inside Ladies coach in Pune on Deccan Queen. (Shankar Narayan/HT PHOTO)

The frequent passengers include some who have been travelling for a few months to over 15 years. Such is the familiarity and effective dependency of the passengers that they know who is travelling in which compartment. “Go to the air conditioned C1 or C2, you will find lawyers,” said a passenger as women and most of the government employees huddled together to share their opinions.

Abha Rao, 57, who has spent time in United States of America and is in the country fighting a case in the Bombay high court, said, “Earlier, I used to travel more frequently, now I travel maybe once or twice every other week. The delays are more frequent now. Back then, delays were unheard of, but recently, I even missed a court date once,” said Rao.

At 6:30 am, the much-spoken about pantry car of the Deccan Queen Express, also known more dramatically as ‘Dakkhan Chi Rani’ in Marathi, is getting warmed up and ready to serve breakfast to its passengers.

“The options that you have to choose from are all unhealthy and fried food,” said Rao amid smell emanating from the sewage and soiled train floor that has filled the pantry car. The exhaust fans running after regular intervals, just under the ceiling of the train, hardly do anything to contain the stench.

Besides the stench, what has also irked the regular passengers of Deccan Queen is the lowering food quality in the past few months after the railways changed the contractor.

“Besides taking traditional items off the menu, like pohe and upit (a dish made of semolina), the food is unhealthy as it is full of oil,” said Rao, while other passengers nodded in agreement.

Pantry car of Deccan Queen express in Pune. (Shankar Narayan/HT PHOTO)

“I’m a nurse and I was recently transferred from Sassoon General Hospital to Gokuldas Tejpal government hospital. I live in the hostel there, leaving my family behind, on most days. However, when I come home and the train gets late, whether on the journey from or to Mumbai, I lose time. I did the same between 1996-2005 and now I’m back to the routine for the past few months. However, the delays are a recent phenomenon,” said Noor Bano Shaikh, 53, who arrived 15 minutes before the train was about to leave on Thursday morning.

First Published: Aug 04, 2018 16:51 IST