The local trains that run across Mumbai are known as the city’s lifeline, and for good reason. Rarely do you meet a Mumbaikar who doesn’t use the local transportation, which has an average ridership of close to 7.5 million people to-and-fro on a daily basis--that’s almost double the population of New Zealand, five times the population of Estonia and ten times that of Bhutan. But as the temperature gradually rises, the good news of everyday train commuters is that the first ever air-conditioned local is set to begin trial runs within a week.
As reported by The Economic Times, the announcement was made earlier today by a senior Central Railway (CR) official who stated that “the AC local arrived in Mumbai this morning and is parked at the Kurla car shed, where its first round of servicing and checking would be done by our technical staff.” The trial runs could take up to three to four weeks to complete, said S K Sood, CR General Manager, and would be conducted at the railways trans-harbour line which connects Navi Mumbai to Thane.
While the news of an AC local train is thrilling, there remains uncertainty about which route it would take when it finally starts running. “We can’t say when trial run would get over. And anything about the lines of commercial operations can be said only after we successfully complete the trial run,” said Sood. A joint team of the Research Design Standards Organisation (RDSO), Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS), the railways’ top technical body along with engineers from CR and Integral Coach Factory (ICF) where the train was built and flagged off in Chennai on March 31.
Describing its features, senior divisional electrical engineer Ved Prakash stated, “There would be two sets of 15-tonne AC units in every coach and doors would close and open automatically, with emergency opening features. Additionally, passengers, if needed, can use talk-back facility to communicate with the motormen or the guards.”
Having cost about Rs. 54 crore to build and a life expectancy of thirty five years, the train’s speed is said to be limited to approximately 50-60 kilometres per hour during the initial trials, and can overall reach a speed of 110 kilometres per hour with a capacity of holding 1,028 seated passengers and 4,936 standees, as reported by the Times Of India. Narendra Patil, chief PRO of CR, was also quoted stating that the fare structures, routes of operation and time-table will be worked out in due time. This silver-blue coloured train has no separations in terms of general and first class, and two of the total twelve coaches will be reserved for women. The train will comprise of two connected parts with six coaches each. The operation of air-conditioned local trains was announced in 2012-13 as a part of the Rail Budget, but the project was delayed a number of times due to certain “hiccups and impediments,” which is no surprise really considering how most projects go on in the country but better late than never.