>> When the AC rake first came to Mumbai, the first thing the engineers did was to check whether the automatic doors and the AC were functioning properly. Initially, the high-power AC units — all 360 tonnes — were vibrating heavily and overcooling the coaches. Officials corrected both problems: There is now zero vibration and the temperature is set at a comfortable 22 degrees.
>> The temperature will also automatically change depending on the commuter traffic inside the coaches. Each coach has two 15-tonne AC units, and if it gets too cold, one of them will go dormant.
>> Engineers also prepared for technical failures that might affect the AC. If the AC switches off, the trains blowers will switch on and run for up to six hours.
>> Automatic doors were malfunctioning, but were repaired.
>> Earlier, there was just one console for the Motorman to open and close the doors, but a second console was added for the Guard, who can operate each door individually.
>> The train is also fitted with a red button that will function as the passenger feedback system, so commuters can speak to the motorman or the guard.
How much loss is the Mumbai suburban system making?
During the year 2014-15, the Mumbai suburban system incurred a loss of Rs 1,432 crore, which is tantamount to a loss of Rs 50 lakh per annum for every service that is running on the system. Hence, any additional service introduced in the system contributes to further losses. It should be noted that in the last 10 years, more than 1,000 services have been added. The suburban system was not making losses till the year 2006-07, i.e. prior the implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission and Phase I of MUTP works. The Sixth Pay Commission contributed to additional losses in the system and the situation will get aggravated by the Seventh Pay Commission. Abnormally low yield per passenger kilometre (which is at present 15 paise per km) also contributes to losses. There were no increase in fares between 2003-04 and 2012-13.
In your opinion, what should be the strategy to reduce the losses?
There is a need for a paradigm shift in the collection of fares. We have to ensure that fare collection increases without burdening the poor. This would require a complete re-evaluation of the fare structure and collection. For example, it may be possible to increase fare collection despite reducing first class single journey card tickets as occupancy during anti-peak and non-peak period is likely to increase. Also, too much concession is being given to short distance travelling, although most of the poor people commute from distant places. Fixing the price of card tickets according to the trip is the best solution. Just Rs 10 per trip for second class and Rs 25 for first class will not only help the poor who live beyond Kalyan and Virar, but also reduce suburban losses. As of now, the yearly suburban fare box collection is at around Rs 1,540 crore, which will almost double. It may also be worthwhile to consider whether appropriation of pension to suburban costing is the right thing or is it the responsibility of the Central government alone. There is also a need to adopt new technologies that can reduce operational and maintenance costs.
Sources said that during an internal meeting, it was decided that if a long distance train enters Mumbai — which is near Kalyan — then it will be made to wait up to one hour while suburban trains take the path. CR has decided that if long distance trains are forced to wait for over 45 minutes after entering Mumbai, their passengers will be allowed to take local trains.
“The attendants are being asked to inform the passengers that once the train comes to a halt at a siding, then they can walk down to the neighbouring platform. These trains will be parked on the additional rail line parallel to the platforms,” said a Central Railway official.