According to the letter, signed by relief and rehabilitation secretary Kishor Nimbalkar, the state has suggested staggered timings wherein the general public can be allowed to board trains during three non-peak time slots-—from the first local to 7.30am, 11am to 4.30pm and from 8pm till the last train for the day. The remaining time slots can be reserved for those authorized till now.
State govt has also sought one ladies special train every hour
The government has also asked the railways to run one ladies’ special every hour. Recently, there was confusion when the state announced a date to allow women to board trains but the railways answered in the negative.
“The time slotting is being done to encourage private offices to stagger work timings. Around 7 lakh people are already using Mumbai’s local train network, especially during peak hours, and if more are allowed during the same hours, it will not be possible to maintain Covid-19 protocols. At the same time, since the state is opening sectors, there is a demand by people employed in those sectors to be allowed on local trains,” said a senior official.
Not everyone in government agrees with the proposal. “Once local train travel is opened up, there will be nothing called a lockdown anymore. It will be hard to control crowds and restrict movement,” said a senior official.
CR’s chief public relations officer Shivaji Sutar said, “We are preparing inputs for submission to the state government.” Railway sources said enforcement will be difficult in the face of increased passenger load. “The state government will have to provide manpower to weed out unauthorized travellers during restricted hours. Also, there is a limit on how many persons can be physically fined or prosecuted every day,” said a railway official. “Before the lockdown, each day, an average of 80 lakh passengers took 3,141 services.” On the ladies special proposal, the official said, “It would mean this service will run empty, implying overcrowding on the train that follows next.”
The railways had suggested implementing a colour-coded ticketing system to regulate time slots. A similar scheme has been implemented by the Kolkata Metro. Under this, the system generates colour-coded e-passes that can be easily identified by officials. For example, those who book the 8-9am slot can be issued yellow passes and those with different-coloured passes would not be allowed during that time.