Here’s my routine : I get up each morning, do my stuff, and get on the train enroute to college. I board the train that comes before 630, because the ones after are always more crowded.
630 am. And the ones after the 630 am local are crowded. AM. Morning.
This is a big problem in Mumbai. I hate standing around people, so what seems to be “crowded” to me could be “normal” to Mumbaikars. The actual crowding, or “superdense crushload” as it has been christened by the enterprising folks at Central Railway, happens between 8-11 am in the morning on weekdays, and 7-10 pm on the nights on weekdays.
This superdense crush load has 3 people standing where 1 person should stand, and there’s barely any space to move inside. This actually happened to me, when I was new in Mumbai and a complete stranger to the workings of the railways.
I got on a train at 9 am to go to college because unsurprisingly, I had caved into my brains demands for oversleeping.
I was pushed inside, and I could barely even turn. My bag did not help either – people around me got irritated because it went up their noses and other orifices. So I kept getting pushed around in exactly zero meter squared. I could have elbowed my way inside, but that would have been useless because my brain is stupidly paranoid of stampedes. Where’s the link in that? If I pushed my way around, panicked, I could have been pushed back and ergo, crushed.
That train was literally so fucking full of humanity that I was wondering just what everyone in Maharashtra was doing in one bloody compartment. And I was in the first class compartment. You can imagine how many people would have been in the much cheaper second class compartments.
I then gave up and got off at the next station – just 10 minutes of super dense crush load. I then went back home. From then on, I swore to avoid traveling between 9-11 in the mornings even if it was an emergency.
There are a variety of reasons for this, if you ask me :
1) Mumbai is pretty well connected to its suburbs, from where most of the people come to work. Think of Mumbai as a long narrow rectangle and the suburbs as a bigger rectangle around it on 2 sides.
2) There are no alternate means of transport. The auto’s don’t come everywhere and it’s foolish to expect to go by autos all the time. Your wallet will vanish by then and you’ll be on the mean streets in no time. Buses are large in number, but the routes are tiny and infrequent. Don’t even get me started on cabs.
3) There are just a lot of people living in and around Mumbai who work in Mumbai. They all leave from home at nearly the same time and go back home at nearly the same time.
Solution to solve crowding?
As a certified and seasoned armchair expert on everything that exists in this universe, I have exactly one suggestion to give to anyone who’s even remotely interested in reading about them – Change the orientation of the seats.
Instead of doing that, the geniuses at CR and WR are actually introducing more coaches per train on a set of railway tracks that cannot possibly take more trains or coaches. Recently, the Western Railway introduced a 15 coach suburban train, as opposed to the 12 coaches it runs now.
Instead of doing all that, they could simply alter the seats to make them longitudinal, ie against the walls, instead of latitudinal, ie against the direction of movement.
I want that, whatevers in that picture up there. Most people don’t realize suburban train travel is not meant to last very long, so wanting to sit for the 20 minutes you’re in the train makes you a lazy asshole. So do away with the seats, minimize the seats and maximize space.
How efficient do you think the above picture is, in terms of carrying people? It’s not very efficient if that’s what it is. It’s pretty absurd that this is still how people travel, when most railway networks have abandoned it for the much better latitudinal seating.
Apparently, they tried introducing it but since they got an angry response from commuters, they withdrew it. How stupid was that? They have the absolute monopoly in rail transit within Mumbai. Commuters have no choice – which is why they’ll whine but still stick with them. For example, yours truly. I whine about how hot the trains are and how crowded they are but I still use them because of the lack of an alternative.
If this logic failed to throw itself on people running the show, then god save Mumbai’s railways. Looks like its doomed to be crowded forever.
After doing that, they can introduce special trains. Two right off my head are :
- College special – for college/school students in the mornings
- First class only – A 3/4/6 coach special entirely made up first class compartments
But do you know what they’re really doing?
Nothing. The tracks are redundant, and get flooded every single monsoon. The signals are outdated. The OHE cables are not as they should be. The trains themselves are not upto scratch.
It’s like no one had any foresight while building the Mumbai Suburban Railway. Which is why I hate traveling each morning, packed like a fucking sardine in a rusty tinbox.