After a gap of nearly 10 months, local trains in Mumbai would be opened for the general public.
The local train network is considered the lifeline of the Mumbai metropolitan region (MMR).
As of now, locals are being run for people engaged in essential services.
After a series of meetings this week, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has written to Indian Railways to resume the local trains for general public from Feb 1 for limited timings.
“The Railway Board would take a final decision on this issue,” said relief and rehabilitation minister Vijay Wadettiwar.
The Central Railway (CR) and Western Railway (WR) that together run the locals in MMR, are awaiting the nod of the ministry for the state's proposal.
The announcement of Thackeray comes on a day – when the CR and WR – scaled up the total services to 2,985 – nearly 90 to 95 per cent of the normal services.
Thackeray’s announcement, however, has a couple of riders.
Local train services for the general public are allowed from the start of services for the day to 7 AM and then again from 12 PM to 4 PM in the afternoon and from 9 PM to closure of local train services for the day.
The local train services will be restricted to the essential services staff only as is being permitted currently from 7 AM to 12 PM and from 4 PM to 9 PM.
Meanwhile, the state government has requested establishments to stagger their work schedule in a manner wherein their staff will be able to avail the services of the local trains in the timings mentioned above.
The state government has also allowed shops and restaurants in Mumbai and the Mumbai-MMR to remain open till 11 pm and 1 am, respectively.
“The new timings will help to regain some business,” said Mohan Gurnani, chairman, Chamber of Associations of Maharashtra Industries and Trade (CAMIT).
The Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (AHAR), the apex body of the industry has welcomed the decision. “Without the local services, our staff have been undergoing untold hardships in commuting to their workplace while the restaurant owners were incurring losses due to the time restrictions. These measures will further enable the industry to gain back the confidence and get back its lost sheen as a major contributor to the country’s GDP as well as a major employment generator,” said Shivanand Shetty, president, AHAR.
Spread across six lines covering 390-odd kms and 157 stations in the Mumbai metropolitan region comprising five districts of Mumbai City, Mumbai Suburban, Thane, Palghar and Raigad, the city is highly dependent on the railway network –as over 70 to 80 lakh people use it daily.
The train services were shut down on 22 March, when the day-long 'Janata Curfew' was imposed and then the subsequent lockdown period in wake of outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic.
On 15 June, skeletal services re-started for people engaged in essential services, state and central governments, banks and so on.
Over the last five months, the services have been increased and more people have been allowed in trains.