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Feb 1, 2015

Are Mumbai Local Trains with AC needed?

Mumbai people have a reason to be happy. After the commencement of metro train, the local trains of Mumbai, the lifeline of Bombay, are going to have Air Conditioned (AC) coaches for passengers. As per news published in daily news & analysis website dnaindia.com, IRCTC, the railway ticketing and catering company, has joined the fray to run AC locals in Mumbai.

mumbai local train CST andheri
live picture taken of Andheri bound local train departing from CST Mumbai Harbour line!

While the news is good, question is - Is it really needed to fit in AC's into the locals? Mumbaikars (a term used to refer to common men of mumbai) are quite used to heat and humidity. More ever people are used to travel in crowded trains to go from one local station to another. It is not that the people like crowded jammed up coaches, the availability of trains is such that one has to get into the first available train to reach the destination on time. With AC trains coming up, the capacity of trains would surely get affected. Air Conditioned trains usually require great maintenance and it is a possibility that they would not have space to carry as many people as what can be carried in present locals today.

Other concern is fare. People want safe yet cheap travel. No one wants to spend most of their money in local travel. Most people living in Mumbai are service class people who know the value of money. More one can save it, easier will it be to run the family. Who will bear the cost of AC in train? Will it be added as service charge to local train fare? We all saw how people raised voice against the hiked up fare when metro train was introduced.

The good move will be to attach some AC coaches to already running Mumbai Locals. This way those who wish to travel in cool coaches can do so. In particular the tourists on Mumbai tour will prefer it. On the other hand, the day to day local travelers can continue to travel in general, second class, and first class. Railway board has already placed an order of 9 full AC rakes at Integral Coach Factory, Chennai. It is believed that the trains would be available by March, 2015.

There are still many more questions. Is railway looking to corporatise its AC suburban local segment. There have been plenty of demonstrations against privatization of railway in recent past. Will this move be acceptable to members of railway union? Will this be launched as completely new product of railway with no connection to western and central railway? Will it use the already laid tracks and pay for them and if that extra money will be charged from the passengers? All these questions need to be answered by IRCTC and Railway.

IRCTC is so far only involved in ticketing, and domestic and foreign tours package offers. This move has indeed given a new dimension to plans to get air-conditioned locals for Mumbai. But are they really needed?

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