Mumbai local trains are getting a makeover — in the interest of better safety. The Central Railway is changing up train coaches by modifying seating arrangments to make the trains more spacious and better able to accomodate Mumbai’s ever-increasing passenger load.
Every day, 75 lakh people commute via the suburban rail network, which is among the largest in the world. It also has some of the most severe overcrowding in the world.
Passenger deaths are an unbelievably common and horrifying consequence of these impossibly-crowded train coaches — with one estimate pegging the number of deaths at almost 10 per day.
The decision to modify train coaches was triggered by the news of the death of 21-year-old Bhavesh Nakhate, who fell off a running train even as he tried to hold on. A train safety committee formed by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu took the decision.
The Central Railway (CR) has modified a train rake in a number of different ways, all aimed at increasing passenger intake.
The seating arrangement in five coaches — 1st, 4th, 6th, 9th, and 10th — of this Siemens rake has been changed.
The modified train can now accommodate 336 more passengers than it did earlier.
The modification was done within eight days at the Carriage Workshop in Matunga.
The motor coaches and the ladies, handicapped, and luggage compartments will see no changes.
“In this rake, two prototypes are being offered to the commuters of CR suburban services to solicit their opinion and decide the future course of action. In one coach, partial Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (metro) type seating arrangement has been done,” said Mahesh Kumar, Chief Workshop Manager of the Matunga Workshop, “After removing three-seater seat adjacent to doorways, we have provided additional grab handles in each coach so that commuters should not feel discomfort.”
However, some authorities have said that technological changes will be crucial for long-term, sustainable reduction in overcrowding.
A train with the new coaches was rolled out on December 25. The Central Railway will plan its next step based on public response.