Fading charm, but the local train chugs on

Fading charm, but the local train chugs on

travelers' tale

Delhi’s Safdarjung Station, one of the stops for electric multiple unit or EMU, famously known as ‘local train’, wears a deserted look. Only people waiting for the train for Jammu are seen sitting under the shed. 

Within a few minutes a local train enters the platform, but, unfortunately there are no takers for it. Only youngsters, some frequent without-ticket travellers, are seen hopping on to the train. “It is a regular sight here. They are all drug addicts and ragpickers and even if they are caught by the ticket checker, they can’t be fined because they never have money. Toh bas zyada se zyada hum unhe murga bana dete hain, phir chhod dete hai,” the station superintendent tells Metrolife.

The incident highlights the fact how local trains have lost their charm, and some may even say utility, among travellers who pitch for the swanky Delhi Metro and the air conditioned buses in the City. Started during the Asian Games in Delhi in 1982, the route known as the Ring Railway covers 35.36 kms. There are nine block stations and 13 halt stations, namely Lajpat Nagar, Sewa Nagar, Lodhi Colony, Sarojini Nagar halt, Delhi Safdarjung, Chanakyapuri halt, Sardar Patel Marg halt, Brar Square, Delhi Inderpuri halt, Narain Vihar halt, Kirti Nagar halt, Patel Nagar, Hazrat Nizamuddin, Pragati Maidan, Tilak Bridge, Shivaji Bridge, New Delhi, Sadar Bazar, Delhi Kishanganj, Vivekanandpuri, Daya Basti and Shakurbasti. 

Presently, EMU services with 10 coaches and one EMU service with 12 coaches are running on Ring Railway. Eight trains are running in clockwise direction, five in the morning, three in the evening and nine trains are running in anti-clockwise direction, six in morning and three in the evening. The total end-to-end travel time is 90 minutes. The frequency of the services is 60-90 minutes in the evening and 45-60 minutes during morning peak hours.

According to the station superintendent, who declined to tell his name as he is not authorised to speak to the media, the trains are only run in public interest. “We hardly earn anything from this service. We are operating it at a loss and cannot even bear our expenses. Not much has been done so far to popularise or promote EMU. You will only find crowds during office hours, rest of the time all these trains run empty.” 

Around 4,400 passengers utilise the Ring Railway services on an average daily and the tickets are priced at just Rs 5 to 10. During the year 2011-12, 16.40 lakh people travelled on the EMUs, which earned the Indian Railways, Rs 236.76 lakhs. 

The Delhi Safdarjung Station which is as old as the Rashtrapati Bhavan did not even have proper security measures in place. There were no Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel deployed at the entrance, making it vulnerable to any mishap.

AS Negi, senior Public Relations Officer, Northern Railway, said, “The number of passengers travelling on local trains is very less. One of the major factors is that many stations are located at the outskirts of Delhi. So, commuting to the station becomes an issue. Also, there are no feeder bus services available for the commuters, which makes it even more unpopular.”