Where locals go: Data spur rlys to hammer out city-specific plans

Thanks to the trend of offices relocating from south Mumbai to its northern parts, Mumbaikars’ local train commute has shrunk considerably over the past three years.

A study of suburban card ticket sales on both Western Railway (WR) and Central Railway (WR) between 2010 and 2012 reveals that 44% or almost half the suburban commuters travel less than 20km a day—a distance equivalent to the Churchgate-Vile Parle stretch on WR. Another 35% limit their journey under 40km or, say, CST to Mumbra on the CR. Just a fraction or 12% of the commuters travel 41km to 60km a day—the distance between Churchgate and Virar on WR, or CST and Ambernath on CR.

These startling figures, collated by the Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation (MRVC), have been aired publicly now, but the railways had already begun introducing more short-distance shuttle services. In 2012, 55 suburban shuttle services were launched.

It is the decentralization of business hubs to Parel, Bandra-Kurla Complex, Andheri, Malad, Ghatkopar and parts of Navi Mumbai which has seen commuters limit their daily travel, said experts.

CR Plans Parel Terminus For Short Services

Mumbai: Experts say decentralization of business districts has helped train commuters cut down on their travel. As P C Sehgal, former managing director of MRVC, said, “The growth centres have shifted and there is a consequent change in Mumbaikars’ travel pattern. Railway authorities need to run more 15-car services between Andheri and Borivli, which, according to me, is the busiest stretch on WR. Likewise, more people now alight at Ghatkopar, Thane, Kurla, Parel and Currey Road. More services should run between Dadar and Kalyan or Thane to take care of the additional load.”

CR, for one, has realized that fewer commuters travel up to CST today. It has, therefore, planned a Parel terminus for shuttle services up to Kalyan and beyond, to avoid loading the already saturated Dadar Terminus.

Shailesh Goyal, former member, National Rail Users’ Consultative Committee, said, “The extended suburbs have also witnessed a phenomenal growth in residential projects. The new townships have also led to a boom in the services sector.”

Currently, the distance of 22km —CST to Vikhroli or Churchgate to Andheri—takes around 40 minutes by a slow local and 30 minutes by a fast; a local runs at an average speed of 40km per hour.

A journey of 34km, which is equivalent to the distance of CSTThane or Churchgate-Borivli, takes almost one hour in a slow train. A fast train covers this stretch on the CR in less than 40 minutes. A trip on a CST-Borivli fast local will be around 55 minutes.

Rail Yatri Sangh’s Subhash Gupta said, “Apart from train travel, a person has to take road transport from the station to his residence or office. This takes another 15 to 20 minutes. It is but natural that a person would like to keep his travel short to spend more time with family.” An MRVC official added, “The travel pattern shows that the majority of commuters prefer their location of residence or their workplace within the 20km range.”

The preference for short-distance travel is higher on CR than on WR. Nearly 29% of CR commuters prefer to travel a distance of 0-10km compared to 9% on WR.


WR and CR has begun introducing shuttle services in the suburbs and extended suburbs due to population growth in these parts. Here’s a look at the number of shuttle services launched in 2012

Thane-Karjat-5 | CST-Kalyan-5 | Thane-Asangaon-3 | Kalyan-Asangaon-3 | Thane-Badlapur-3 | Thane-Kasara-3 | Dadar-Kalyan-3 | Kalyan-Karjat-1

Bandra-Bhayander -1 | Borivli-Virar-9 | Borivli-Nallasopora-1 | Borivli-Vasai Road-1 | Andheri-Bhayander-4 | Andheri-Virar-2 | Borivli-Bhayander-2 | Borivli-Andheri (The figures do not includes services for Dahanu)


Nagpur reservation counters to remain open on Sundays till 8pm

In a decision that would benefit the passengers in a big way, the Nagpur division of Central Railway has decided to open reservation counters on Sundays for full day.

At present, on Sundays reservation counters used to remain open from 8am to 2pm. Now these counters will remain open in the second shift too – from 2pm to 8pm. The facility will be available from June 16.

“Although this will be on a permanent basis, initially two counters will remain open at the main station on experimental basis. Looking at the response the facility will be extended at Ajni later,” said Brijesh Dixit, divisional railway manager (DRM).

Dixit said that the maiden move was taken after a positive feedback from large number of commuters who prefer to be at the reservation counters on Sunday, being a public holiday. Both the counters will be available for booking tickets and cancellations too.


Published in: on June 16, 2013 at 4:44 am  Leave a Comment  
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125 years of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST)

A strong reminder of the colonial roots and strength of Indian Railways, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), formerly Victoria Terminus, completes 125 years this month.
A rare combo of Victorian Italianate Gothic Revival architecture and Mughal beauty, the world heritage building came up in 1888. The busiest railway station in the country is a terminus for long-distance as well as Mumbai suburban trains.

It is the only operational world heritage station building.

It is the place where the first page of Indian Railways history was written 160 years ago on April 16, 1853, when the first train was started between Bori Bunder and Tannah (CSTM and Thane) in Mumbai. The initial four services a day ferried about 1,000 passengers.

Today, 1,618 services from the station cater to about 65 lakh commuters every day.

When the British introduced the service for personal convenience they would not have imagined it would one day spread to such proportions covering the length and breadth of the country, 65,000 km in all, and bring about a geographical and socio-economic sea change.

Of the 65,000 km rail network, 54,600 km is broad gauge.

Central Railway then general manager and at present member engineering, railway board, Delhi, Subodh Jain, who has completed 37 years in service, narrates the story of Indian Railways which graduated from narrow/metre gauge (serving “narrow-minded people”) to broad gauge (serving the “broad-minded”).

He explains Cotton Green (a station for suburban trains in Mumbai), dak bungalows and mails.

Before railways, all vehicles were animal-driven. Once James Watt harnessed the power of steam, horse power was replaced.

Subsequently, George Stephenson invented the first steam engine locomotive in 1816 — Rocket.

The first passenger train ran in India on April 13, 1853, and the next day a Parsi booked all its seats for a “joyride”.

Prior to this, trains would bring cotton to Bombay Port to be shipped to Manchester, England.

This is how Cotton Green came into being. It was an exchange where cotton would be brought from different parts of the country for trade.

To start with, horse riders, called dakiye (postmen), would bring mail for viceroys in Peshawar, Delhi, Kanpur and other places.

The places where dakiyes and tired horses would rest and mail change hands came to be known as dak bungalows.

Trains followed the same system and came to be known as mails and loco sheds replaced dak bungalows.

At loco sheds, steam engines low on fuel would be detached and fresh ones loaded with coal would be attached. This was also the time train drivers would go to running rooms for rest.

Initially, all trains carried the suffix mail as their objective was to carry mail, not passengers. So it was Punjab Mail, Frontier Mail.

When the talk of carrying passengers began, Lord Dalhousie suggested Hindustan should have broad gauge, not metre or narrow gauge.

After Dalhousie returned to Britain, Indian kings sought narrow or metre gauge.

In 1873, permission was granted to maharajas and Indian rail companies to lay metre gauge lines for passenger transport and a network of chhoti lines was established.

In 1892, it was realised metre gauge caused loss, the service was poor and speed less. This prompted a uni-gauge — one gauge all over India — policy.

Soon, conversion of metre gauge to broad gauge began. Areas that already had broad gauge lines saw rapid industrial development with an influx of labour. Labourers migrating from metre gauge areas — Kutch in Gujarat, north Bihar — to broad gauge areas initially faced ridicule. Dekho, ye chhoti line ka admi hai!

Thus, populations were gauged — residents of developed areas (broad gauge), those of backward areas (metre gauge) and of no-development areas (no rail network).

Bombay Baroda Central Indian Railway was initially Central Indian Railways. But when the British sought to lay a rail line in Baroda, the king of Baroda told them the company name should also include the state name.

This is why Dadar is both BB (Bombay Baroda) and TT (Tram Terminus). The trams would run between Regal Cinema and Dadar.


Central Railways spends Rs14 lakh in 60 days to keep birds at bay

In past two months, the Central Railway (CR) has spent more than Rs13.7 lakh on bird repellents between Kalyan and Thane. According to a CR authority, the railways has been facing this problem for quite sometime now, with birds, especially pigeons and crows, building their nests on overhead equipment (OHE), poles and pantographs, often disrupting rail traffic.

In past two months, the Central Railway (CR) has spent more than Rs13.7 lakh on bird repellents between Kalyan and Thane. According to a CR authority, the railways has been facing this problem for quite sometime now, with birds, especially pigeons and crows, building their nests on overhead equipment (OHE), poles and pantographs, often disrupting rail traffic. The overhead wires or a train’s pantograph come in contact with the twigs used to build the nests and cause technical glitches.

As authorities have been looking for a permanent solution to shoo the birds away from the wires and other sensitive places on the tracks, it has been applying non-toxic repellents like gels, paints and other wooden repellents on the equipment that could prevent birds from nesting there. “There have been many instances of birds disrupting rail services, with their nests on portals that hold overhead wires causing short circuits and power failures that delays services. The problem worsens every summer,” CR public relations officer AK Singh said.

In the last two months, railway officials have removed over 200 nests in Thane and its adjoining stations, which they claim have caused at least 6-7 minor disruptions.

According to an official, the railways had tried dangling wooden sticks like scarecrows from the electric poles last year. Weights or wooden sticks attached to threads would sway with the wind and scare the birds off.

“This didn’t deter birds from building nests on the poles or OHE. It somehow proved effective in the western lines as in past one year, there have been fewer disruptions due to birds,” the station master at Thane station said.


Published in: on May 7, 2013 at 3:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Eyeing revenue, railways starts spade work to develop land in Mumbai

The Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC) has begun a survey to find out how portions of land owned by the railways on the city’s suburban network can be commercially developed.

The Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC) has begun a survey to find out how portions of land owned by the railways on the city’s suburban network can be commercially developed.

The study would not only assess the market situation for development but also the impact it would have on the existing infrastructure like roads and underground utilities.

The survey, called the ‘best use option’ study, is expected to take six to seven months to be completed because its scope is extensive, said officials.

The first five plots the MRVC is looking at are in Mulund (West), Bhandup (East), Thane, Chinchpokli and Currey Road.The railways has almost 430 million square metres of land across the country. The officials said the survey is being conducted as the railway ministry is considering the view that the railways must commercially exploit its land to gets its dismal balance sheets back in the black.

“It is a desperate situation for the railways. It needs to run more trains every year because of the annual rise in passengers. Many of these run on diesel which is bleeding the railways. Second, staff salaries continue to rise. In such a situation, looking at commercially exploiting land instead of allowing them to get encroached due to lack of activity is important,” said an official.

Central Railway alone has some 4.7 lakh square metres of land either encroached or under litigation in Mumbai.

Officials said the survey is looking at Central Railway areas because the Western Railway lands are being locked in for the elevated corridor between Oval Maidan-Churchgate-Virar.

“The elevated corridor project would require commercial development of land to allow the private participant to recover costs. So around 1.4 million sqft of railway land between Churchgate and Virar are being held back as part of the elevated corridor calculations,” said an official.


Rly commuters can also file a complaint

Railway passengers too can complain under section 145 of the Railway Act against people creating nuisance in trains. Offender can be fined up to Rs. 500 and imprisoned for six months, if found guilty.

In 2012, the Central Railway booked over 4,000 persons, of which 309 were imprisoned and rest were penalised.

“Passengers getting troubled because of any other commuter should register a complaint at the local RPF station or call on helpline number 1275 with details of the offenders, train number, timing and coach number. If there is an RPF official or ticket collector in the train, the person can complain to them also. Following this, the commuter creating nuisance can be prosecuted under the railway act,” said Alok Bohra, senior divisional security commissioner, railway police force (RPF), Central Railway (CR).

Commuters complained that the nuisance was higher in trains than in buses.

“Most of us don’t know who to approach to file a complaint. Besides, such complaints should be taken on the phone by railway police instead of asking us to come to the police station,” said Kailash Verma, a commuter activist.


High Court asks CR, WR to consider setting up medical centres near accident-prone spots

High Court asks CR, WR to consider setting up medical centres near accident-prone spots.

The Bombay High Court on Tuesday asked railways to consider setting up medical centres near railway stations that are near accident-prone spots on the Central and Western railway routes.

Information accessed through the Right to Information (RTI) presented in court by the petitioner revealed that more than 3,500 persons lost their lives in suburban train accidents in the city last year.

According to statistics submitted by petitioner Samir Zaveri 2,297 deaths occurred on Central Railway and 1,244 on the Western Railway. The number of injured was 2,310 on CR and 1,498 on WR.

Kurla, with 459 fatalities, topped the accident chart followed by Kalyan where 429 people were killed in train accidents and Borivali, where 339 deaths were reported in 2012.

The court asked the railways to consider setting up emergency medical centres in the vicinity of local railway stations where a large number of accidents have been found to take place. It also asked CR and WR to file affidavits stating the estimated cost of setting up these medical centres.

Taking note of the emergency medical centre set up in Dadar, Chief Justice Mohit Shah questioned as to why other major stations cannot have similar facilities.

In a 2010 hearing activist Zaveri’s petition seeking more emergency medical centres close to suburban railway stations, the court had suggested that the railways create a separate department for accident victims.

Rooftop traveller injured, critical

A rooftop traveller was injured on Tuesday after he came in contact with overhead electricity wires. Dahisar-resident Prem Singh Thakur (25) was travelling atop a local train at Dadar on the Western Railway. Thakur was rushed to Sion hospital, where he is reported to be in a critical condition. The government railway police officers said the incident took place at 11.20 am Tuesday.


Railway plans fully AC train from Mumbai to Delhi by May

Central Railway is planning to run its first fully air-conditioned train between Mumbai and New Delhi by May.

To be run once a week, the train is expected to leave Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT) in the afternoon and reach Hazrat Nizamuddin station in New Delhi in the morning. It will run via Bhopal, Khandwa and Bhusawal, said sources. The announcement for this train was made in the railway budget presented by Union minister Pawan Kumar Bansal on February 26.

CR general manager Subodh Jain said, “The train will be introduced during the summer to cater to increase in demand of passengers to New Delhi.”

A CR official told TOI, “The train will have more AC 3-tier coaches, though there will be AC 2-tier and First AC coaches also.”

CR will use the Linke Holfmann Busch (LHB) coaches, similar to those used in premier-class trains like Rajdhani. The LHB coaches provide more comfort and have anti-climbing and anti-telescopic features that prevent casualties during accidents.

The official said, “The fare and date of this weekly train will be decided soon. The running time of Mumbai-Hazrat Nizamuddin Express will be more than that of Rajdhani as it will take a longer route and halt at more stations.”


AC comfort for Mumbai rail commuters

Mumbaikars are all set to become the first suburban commuters in the country to travel in air-conditioned coaches this year. About 70 lakh commuters use the Mumbai suburban rail services daily .

The Western and Central railway operate 2,846 services on the Mumbai suburban network on the Western line, Central Railway’s main line, harbour line and trans-harbour line as of now. The rakes are expected to be run on Mumbai’s Western Railway (WR) as it has fully converted to 25,000 volt alternating current.

The Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal announced 72 new services across the Mumbai suburban network spanning and Central Railway (CR) and WR.

Of the 72 services, 22 would be on CR. Of these, six services would operate between Kalyan and Kasara of the north-east line towards Nasik and six from Kalyan to Karjat of the south-east line towards Pune. Plugging gaps in its harbour line timetable, 10 new services would be introduced in the Panvel – Andheri corridor.

The remaining 50 new services would run on WR. Last year, Mumbai suburban had been given 75 new services — 35 on WR and 40 on CR. Special emphasis was given to the trans-harbour network covering Thane–Vashi, and Thane–Nerul /Belapur / Panvel sections.



MatheranTracks to be lit up with LED lamps

For a nature lover and one looking for new experiences, Matheran could just be the destination in about a fortnight.

This mountaintop dense forest will have the added attraction of a ride back downhill in the narrow gauge train after a view of the breathtaking sunset. It will be a night safari through the forest and mountains under the security of lights.

The Central Railway which manages this 22 km ride has decided to illuminate the Matheran Light Railway (MLR) track with the latest LED (light emitting diode) lamps to add a new dimension to this tourist spot of heritage importance, though convincing Unesco to grant recognition has become an uphill task.

Generators will be installed to light up the Matheran track in compliance with the directives of the Commissioner of Railway Safety. He had refused to give clearance to run trains after sunset on this 107-year-old route between Neral and Matheran without proper lighting arrangements.

For smooth operation of the LED, a windmill energy system will be put in place. It will keep the track illuminated and provide power to the stations en route and the sleepy township located 800 metres above sea level, set in the forest at the top, as the name suggests — Matheran.

The windmill will be another step towards protecting the ecology of this region. Vehicles are not allowed beyond Aman Lodge station from where one has either to trek or go horse-back or by train alone. Hand-drawn rickshaws are available for local movement.

The township survives on the Railways and this was evident when torrential rains washed away the tracks in 2005. The delay in reviving the loss-making section had pushed the people towards penury. The Railways re-laid the track in 2007 bringing tourists back to the place facing the Western Ghats, and reviving the local economy. The revenue for the Railways is just about Rs. 60 lakh while they spend Rs. 6 crore to operate the two-hour journey that curls through dozens of exhilarating slopes and sets up the challenge of the “one kiss tunnel” to its romantically inclined passengers — that is steal one if you can.

The night running of trains is part of the programme to make the section more viable, stressed Central Railway general manager Subodh Jain, and push the earnings to Rs. 4 crore annually. The track has now been prepared to be used even during the monsoon, unlike in the past, to encourage round-the-year tourism.

Matheran has no blacktop roads; the broad pathways are dusty and rocky — allowing rain waters to percolate and preserve the foliage.

Two factors have come in the way of Unesco granting it world heritage status. After the torrential rains, the steam engine was replaced with a diesel locomotive.

A fortnight ago, the Railways did experiment with the steam engine to fulfil the UN body’s conditions but found it a fire hazard with the grass and tree boughs kissing the train in several places. They caught fire and the Railways decided against reviving the steam engine as it could set off summer forest fires.

The Railway Board intends to again petition the Unesco despite the rejection of its earlier proposal in 2009 to secure world heritage status for this mountain railway.

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway and the Kalka-Shimla Railway are now on the World Heritage list since 1999, 2005 and 2008 respectively.

Mr. Jain however maintained that the Railways and other government agencies were taking care of the entire region with commitment, adhering to world norms to maintain the ecology of the hillock irrespective of whether Unesco extends a helping hand or not.