It has been more than a year since the proposal of bringing in 12 car rake trains was announced by Central Railway for the Harbour Line. The Navi Mumbai Railway operates these trains as slow service. With Vashi being the central point, it links CST, Panvel and Thane. Due to its extensive reach across Mumbai metropolitan region and its intensive use by the local urban population, overcrowding has become a major problem on the Harbour Line.
According to sources, 14-16 passengers stand on per square metre of floor space and more than 5,000 passengers are packed into a 9-car rake train during peak hours as against the capacity of 1,700.
Ravi Kite, resident of Sector-16 in Vashi says, “The Harbor Line traffic is increasing very fast as compared to other lines, but the authorities haven’t done anything in this regard. To catch a train at Vashi station during peak hours one has to wait to get enough room to enter. It’s so crowded that nowadays passengers on the Harbor Line are forced to travel by standing out on windows and roofs of the trains.”
Shyamli Singh, resident of Galaxy Apartments in Sanpada complains, “Travelling from Chembur to Vashi in these trains is a challenge, especially while passing through Govandi station. A few children from the slum there throw plastic bags filled with dirty drain (nullah) water at passengers. Once I was also hit on my face and it hurt me like anything. I am a regular commuter in first class. These children always target women’s first class compartment only. Many a time, they pelt stones and hurl abuses too. As there is no space to enter in the compartment one has to forcibly stand on door and turn prey.”
When these problems were put before Central Railway PRO AK Singh, he said, “There are only two solutions in the present scenario. One is the introduction of fast trains and initiating a 12-car train service. Fortunately, steps are already being taken in this regard and a feasibility study has also been initiated. However, the only reason for delay is that there is a need for developing a platform for 12-car rake trains to stand as on the harbour line all stations were made for the purpose of 9-car rake trains only.”
“In Navi Mumbai all railway stations come under the supervision of City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) and hence the development work of railway stations comes under them. The concerned authorities have given the assurance that before the month of June all the required development works will be completed. Once the platforms are ready, 12 car trains will start running on the harbour line and accordingly overcrowding during peak hours will come down from the existing 5,000 commuters to 3,600 commuters per 9-car rake,” explained Singh.
According to sources, Rs 152 crore have been allocated for the project. Out of them, Rs 80 crore would be spent on civil and electrical engineering works. This includes extension of railway platforms on the Harbour Line from Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus to Andheri and Panvel and from Thane to Turbhe. Work on the overhead wires is also proposed and it is likely to cost Rs 35 crore.
It is to be noted that the Central Railway had introduced 12-coach trains in 1986, but it has still not been able to fully switch from 9-coach trains to 12-coach trains and currently 12 car services run on the main line of CR, mostly on stations beyond Kalyan.
—Jaspal Singh Naol