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Time to reconstruct India- Mumbai Local trains

Updated on August 10, 2011

October 26th 2008

There are also simple solutions to give relief to people – Why Railways do not implement them?

Last Thursday, I took a Virar local train in Mumbai to go to a distant suburban station Bhynder from Churchgate. It was a horrible experience. Every time you travel in a Mumbai local train, you get the feeling that they have become more horrible. Some body said correctly “you may go through hell every day, अपनी सरकार के कनों में तो जु भी नहीं रेंगती (our government knows only sleeping)”.

We live now in Churchgate area. But earlier for many years, I lived in Western suburbs, near Andheri. So I am quite used to crowds of Mumbai trains.

Some years back I used to spend an hour of traveling time each way, thinking Mathematics and Physics problems etc. I have got some of my best research ideas, while traveling in local trains. I have matched this experience with several others. Somehow movement and loneliness of traveling helps you to think deeply. One of my American friends told me that he has got in a similar way his best ideas, while driving alone with speeds of 55-60 miles an hour, on interstate highways. Though, I have never tried while driving. That can be dangerous. But in most of USA, one does not have much of a choice.

Now a days, trains are so crowded in Mumbai, that one can not think much, you just want to get the time over and get out. It does not matter, whether you are in first class or second class, both look the same. General compartment in both the classes is so crowded from 6 am to 11 pm that, one can practically hear heartbeats, respiration of passengers near you. You have no choice but to get odor of their perspiration. A lady traveling in general compartment finds it hard to save her body from being touched by males. Even if males try to accommodate her, there is no space. Ladies have to further suffer staring by a whole lot of males. So even if you are traveling with your wife/girl-friend, most of the time girls/ladies prefer to travel in ladies compartment. It is indeed credit to peace loving nature of Indians that there are not much fights or riots, despite such a horrible state of affairs. Often when two passengers start having even some verbal dual, most other passengers stop them, with Mumbaia Hindi expressions, “कयको लड़ता है, थोड़ा सा देर की बात है. तेरेकू भी जाना है उसको भी” (why are you fighting – any way he has to go, so do you”.

When I lived in Western suburbs, I made some scientists from USA-Europe also to travel in train from Malad to Churchgate. I remember some comments, quite different from the way we will think of things. One of them standing in that horrible crowd was saying “these trains must be pleasure for a homosexual”. Another one told me that he could not hold pressure on his chest and heart. He got out at Dadar, waited for some time till he gathered enough courage again to get back.

For last 30-40 years the rail and government authorities have been drawing big schemes of making new metro rails, underground rails and all sort of exotic things, but have not implemented any thing. Now, again there are announcements of many new schemes. We do need some of these metros to cover the whole city. I am hopeful this time, at least some of them will see the day of light. At least for one, contract has been already given to Anil Ambani’s Reliance. Hopefully these large corporate will behave much better than government.

Often, while traveling in these trains, facing inhuman crowds, instead of Mathematics and Physics, I have wondered about improving train services. A lot more can be done by railways to reduce the hardships, without much expenditure. I am sure Indian rail ministers, MP’s, rail managers; chief ministers must have been presented such ideas several times. I do not see any reason why they have not done any thing. Let me share some of my analysis with you.

During last 50 years the population of Mumbai has increased more than 10 times. The numbers of people who use trains have multiplied even more. Has any thing been done to handle this extra crowd, except for increasing a few trains here and there?

Most people use two main lines, Western Railway “Virar/Borivali – Churchgate” and Central Railway “Kalyan-CST(Old name VT/Boribandar)”.

How many extra new tracks have been created? Between Borivali and Mumbai Central, 50 years back there used to be 4 rail tracks, so were between CST and Thane. Even now practically the situation is the same. Only recently I hear that plans have been made to increase it to six active tracks in some parts.

How many new stations were created in last 50 years? Not a single station in Western rail section and just two three stations in Central railway main line Kalyan- CST section?

Is it any wonder that there are chaos and inhuman conditions? Result of this inaction is that not only the stations and trains are horribly crowded but every one is forced to take the same approaching road which were created for handling 5% of today’s crowd. As a result not just the stations, but whole areas near the stations have become extremely crowded, filthy, dirty and polluted. Once you accept such a filthy situation in one corner, it does not stop. Now the whole city looks the same.

Forty years back people used to stand in Q for catching a BEST bus and conductors used to count how many seats or standing places are vacant and allowed only that many passengers to get in. There used to be big footpaths in many parts of the city. Most streets used to be free from garbage. Today all this, which is taken for granted in most parts of world, looks like distant, unbelievable dream in Mumbai.

I have traveled in trains in many different parts of world, New York, Toronto, Chicago, London, Budapest, Frankfurt, Paris, Tokyo, just to name a few. Nowhere, I have seen stations so far apart as in Mumbai. Generally walking distance between two stations is not more than 10 minutes of walk. In Mumbai this is not satisfied even if you consider the main downtown stations Churchgate and Marinelines.

With this rough criterion there is a need to create between almost all stations on these two lines at least 3 more stations. There may be very little expenditure involved to do this. If the railways do this in a coordinated manner with Mumbai metropolitan authorities, both of them can earn a lot, from the property development around it. The money generated, can be used to buy more coaches needed and improve infrastructure.

The trains will then require halting much more which may increase total time taken for journey. But this can be handled with some simple changes. Just now compared to international standards, our trains do seem to run quite slowly. One reason is that huge crowds near the stations have to be taken care of. Two tracks can be used just to run very fast trains halting only on junctions, as is done now also. The other two tracks can be used to run just slow trains. Most of the slow trains should run only in between two junctions. This may reduce the need to change the tracks by trains. While people may have to change trains at the junction stations much more. But the reduction of need for changing tracks can be used to reduce the time interval between two fast or slow trains. At present time interval between two trains is 4-6 minutes. That can be brought down to 1.5 minutes with automization etc. and since long distance people will used fast trains only, the time of journey may remain over all the same. Actually with increase in speeds, it can be reduced quite a bit.

Infrastructure at junction stations will have to be improved considerably to handle extra crowds. Another necessary change required is to improve over bridges very much. Each station should have 4-5 of them in place of 1-2 at present. Junction stations should have even more. There should be escalators on all bridges. With escalators, crossing of tracks by passengers will reduce considerably.

Most of these ideas can be implemented easily in self financing manner. Railways should give contracts and management of such expansions etc. to private corporate and rail divisions themselves also should run in a corporate like fashion with accountability. Though, government agencies have to be involved as main regulating and/or financing bodies.

This article is just beginning. Many Mumbaikars must have similar ideas, which can be implemented easily. There are several interesting websites also on local train systems in Mumbai. I wonder, is there some way we can wake up authorities involved to do some thing on urgent basis. I do plan to write more on Mumbai. Actually our whole country needs a time bound reconstruction phase. I do plan to write hubs on mine and other’s ideas about it regularly. Looking forward to some of the ideas from others too, via this hub.


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    • profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Mumbai India and often in USA

      Hi! Singh Saheb

      Thanks for visit and comment. I am not so pessimistic. Let us hope we can change the situation in near future.

      Though I agree many of these simple ideas can be implemented without any expenditure but our current people in authority are hopeless.

    • MG Singh profile image

      MG Singh 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      good ideas, but in India they can't be implemented and we need another British Raj for that to happen !

    • profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Mumbai India and often in USA

      Thanks for the visit glassvisage! I quite agree. I have lived most of life in Mumbai and often with car at your home (when I grew up very few people had car) still it was always more convenient to travel by subways and train.

      In California, in LA I used to be puzzled what are Americans doing with all the money and no subway system in such a large city. But over they years they built it up. Though they have to do lot more.

      I wish governments in India and Mumbai spend much more on trains and manage them properly. Here there management just crawls. But priorities of government seems to be some where else. They do not even finalize contracts to build up metro and train systems for decades even after taking policy decision to build them.

    • glassvisage profile image


      8 years ago from Northern California

      Ah. This reminds me of what we're looking into here in california, where we're working on the high-speed rail. This would be able to go about 200 mph, allowing residents to travel up or down the state in less than 3 hours. It's amazing how transportation has developed over the years!

    • profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Mumbai India and often in USA

      Hi! Harvey

      Welcome! Local trains in Mumbai have very rarely accident

      They run efficiently. There is one train from main station every 1.5 minutes in pick hours. Main problem is about facilities and infra structures. Trains are old not even air conditioned. main problem is that still they are too few and crowd in train is is much more. So it is almost inhuman to travel in them -people are practically pasted together. Most people have to travel in such crowded for almost an hour.

      It can be easily changed by building up more tracks, paths new metro stations etc.

      Just the government neither does it self nor allows others to do it. That is the main problem.

    • Harvey Stelman profile image

      Harvey Stelman 

      8 years ago from Illinois


      It is so sad to constantly here of another accident there. The people are so intelligent; why doesn't someone stand up and demand this be taken care of?

    • cashmere profile image


      8 years ago from India

      Actually a Mumbai Local train trip was one of the treats I used to look forward to as a kid when we went visiting my masi. Have not been to mumbai in 8 years so have no idea what the trains are like now.

    • profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Mumbai India and often in USA

      Thank you wordsword. I grew up in Mumbai traveling in trains for even going to school. So I know how to handle crowds in train. It is getting worse and worse though.

    • wordsword profile image


      9 years ago

      My memory of traveling in mumbai local trains is still fresh, i personally think its a big challenge to board a train and then withstand the crowd and even while you are in the train there is every chance of you being pushed out whenever passengers have to get down, its nothing sort of a challenge every time you travel through these trains. But i am really worried about passengers who hang to the railing, quite surprising.Again a nicely explained hub.

    • profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Mumbai India and often in USA

      Thank u sanika. Let us hope railways take up

      some of these ideas.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      wateva it wid it... letzz juzz w8 n watch

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      wateva it wid it... letzz juzz w8 n watch

    • profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Mumbai India and often in USA

      Hi! Anamika

      Thanks for writing a comment. You seem to be living a luxurious life by Mumbai standard, traveling just for fifteen minutes to your office is indeed a luxury. Actually my office near Churchgate is just about 5 minutes walking from my home. But I am more talking of normal daily life in Mumbai, which I have also experienced earlier for many years and millions do every day. Most people have to spend 40 minutes to 80 minutes to reach their work place and that too in horribly crowded trains. It does not matter whether it is first class or second class both are equally crowded. Even road travel is not that pleasant experience, due to unorganized traffic and bad road conditions. Surely you must be also aware of it. Let us try to do some thing about it. 


    • Anamika S profile image

      Anamika S Jain 

      10 years ago from Mumbai - Maharashtra, India

      I have travelled in trained too. But i always avoid the crowds and travel first class only so i have not faces much problems. Mumbai local trains are faster, but my preference is to travel by road. From Marinelines it hardly takes me 15 minutes by road to reach narimanpoint.

    • profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Mumbai India and often in USA

      Thank you mumbaikar. Do write your suggestions too. If you have any links or hubs to articles related to suggestions do put in those in comments here.


    • profile image


      10 years ago

      A good article indeed. I also travel every day in trains and worry about where we are going. Good suggestions.


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