What is happening on Central Railway Mumbai right now is one of the biggest planning failures of Mumbai. If, after running the highest number of train services in the world on a given railway network at the cheapest rate of 11 paise per km, commuters blame and curse the system for being worse and shoddy, the fault clearly lies somewhere else.
The protest today is happening at Badlapur, a town that is about 60km from Mumbai. It is defined as the Mumbai Metropolitan Region in the multi-million surveys and studies that are conducted by the government. The railway lines till Kalyan Junction are quadruple and beyond that only double, catering to national and local trains, thus having limitations.
This morning’s protest was because a train was delayed by 20 minutes. Commuters said the weekend outburst happened because “this happens every day and today was the limit.”
The earlier major protest and “outburst” that happened in Mumbai at Diva station in 2015 was also on a weekend, but that is a different matter altogether.
Commuters jumped on tracks and stopped trains – so far for five hours—blocking local and national reactions. Politicians and ministers jumped in with knee-jerk reactions, asking railway managers to go and apologize and give a written undertaking that trains will never be delayed again. Juvenile, I would say. Trains will continue to be detained erratically in the kind of system we live in… open-door trains running along unfenced lines where someone pulls the alarm chain, someone crossing the rail tracks dies or that road level crossing has a vehicular traffic jam.
The key issue here is so many people depend on Mumbai’s local train that it is taken for granted. We have to accept and admit the fact that the suburban system has outlived its capacity. There is no way one can add to the services or trips in a major way and till local and national trains share the same tracks, the delays will be inevitable. The mob will not realise this. They see no train, they will curse and blame.
This, however, I feel is the biggest planning failures of a megacity. The multiple red lines drawn on numerous studies and surveys by spending millions of rupees of tax-payers’ money remain in spiral-bound plans.
The solution lies in building alternatives. What is, for example, the road condition from Badlapur to Mumbai? The state government needs to take charge of this and build eight-lane parallel roads along railway lines or build Metro Rail Networks from these townships.
How long is this city and state going to depend on a transport carrier that is run by the Central government which has outlived its capacity and has other priorities. One thing that can be done here to sort out the mess is to make Mumbai railway independent so that it can be operated in a better way. But that too will have limitations in the given infrastructure.
It is time the state and the city owned up the transport needs of its people and build its own transport system! When the state government allowed setting up of such townships so far from Mumbai, they all were pretty aware that the suburban railways were the only major mode of mass transportation there, but no one gave it a serious thought. This is the biggest planning failure. It is as simple as that!
The need of the hour is to build alternatives. And NOW!
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