Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal feels sorry for millions of Mumbai residents who travel to work on local trains everyday, often making do with broken seats, missing fans or just enough space to stand. Yet, 10 days after he was shocked by the condition of the rakes that run on Central Railway’s Harbour line, CR officials have admitted that the minister may have been appalled and ordered an immediate improvement in the condition of the rakes, but no such improvement could be expected for at least 12 more months.
Bansal who was in Mumbai on April 16 to inaugurate the Dahanu local, then went on an inauguration spree, also declaring open the posh new terminal building at the Lokmanya Tilak Terminus. After the inauguration, he decided to commute till CST by local train. “He took the local train from Tilak Nagar railway station and travelled till CST, a 16-km stretch. While on the local train, he was dismayed to see torn seat covers, broken fans, and filthy floors,” said a senior official from CR who was accompanying the minister.
What upset the minister most however, were the old and rickety rakes. When SUNDAY MiD DAY contacted Central Railway authorities, a senior official who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “Unfortunately the rake that arrived for the minister was an older one.”
But why would it take a year to commission new rakes so that the minister can feel less sorry for Mumbaiites? There is no plausible answer. The Harbour Line runs on DC and Central Railway will first complete the conversion from DC to AC in the mainline. “The conversion from DC to AC on the mainline will take more than a year and only after we have finished that will we be able to touch the harbour line,” VA Malegaonkar, Chief PRO, CR told SMD. The Harbour Line runs 528 services, all of which are old nine-car trains.
Passengers not amused
Passengers, who travel on this overcrowded line however, are far from amused by the minister’s statements and the railway authorities’ response to it. Nika Shah, who commutes between Kharghar and CST every day, said, “We have been complaining for many years about the bad services we get on the Harbour Line. It’s not as if we pay less for our tickets and passes because we get terrible rakes with broken fans and torn seats.” Shah says on an average at least twice a week she finds the fan under which she is standing or sitting, is broken.
“Luckily for us the minister himself suffered what we go through every day and asked the authorities to replace the rakes immediately. I hope the minister follows up with CR staff and makes sure we get trains that any civilised society deserves,” said Manoj Sanap from Panvel who travels to CST everyday on work.