Mumbai commuters get a feel of CR’s first AC local on maiden run

Iram Siddique

The AC rake between Panvel and Thane set for its inaugural run on Thursday.

Central Railway’s first AC local, which will ply between Thane and Panvel, took about 17 minutes more than the regular travel time of 52 minutes to cover the 35 km during its inaugural run on Thursday.

On its return journey to Panvel, it was delayed by seven minutes, which led to several suburban services running 10-15 minutes late.

The train, which departed at 3.48 pm from Panvel after being flagged off by Minister of State for Railways Suresh Angadi, reached Thane at 4.58 pm with increased halts at several stations where the automatic doors were opened and closed multiple times for passengers.

Many passengers, who boarded the train without valid tickets, were allowed to experience the train’s swanky interiors on its inaugural run. According to CR officials, over 100 tickets were sold on the first day, earning revenue of around Rs 12,000. 45-year-old Manisha Mhaske was the train’s motorwoman.

Motorwoman of the train, Manisha Mhaske, inside the driver’s cabin. Amit Chakravarty

Subhas Gupta, former member of Zonal Railway Consultative Users Committee (ZRUCC), said, “As the train is new, the halt at stations was more than usual which led to increased running time. The train affected other trains and its impact was felt later in the evening.”

Officials from CR said since it was being run on the open line for the inaugural run, the actual impact on its punctuality will only be studied once it runs on its scheduled time-table.

A resident of Dombivali, Ajit Navghare was one of the first passengers to purchase a card ticket to Thane. Navghare had come to board a regular train at Panvel. “I saw they had put up an AC service on the indicator scheduled at 3.30 pm, so I decided to try it. I would urge people to use it as it is very comfortable,” he said.

Similarly, for Nahil Memon (20), it was her 12-year-old brother who insisted that they board the AC local after spotting it at the station. “The ticket prices are a lot higher but since we wanted to experience it for the first time, we decided to go for it. It is a good train and I will not mind using it once in a while,” she said.

Several passengers who were waiting for their regular trains boarded the AC train instead as it pulled in at the intermediate stations. Sandeep Singha, a sports instructor, said, “I was waiting for my regular train but as the AC train came in, we boarded it. We were not aware that it has a higher fare. I would prefer using my two-wheeler than taking the AC local as the fares are too high.”

But for 47-year Revathi Nair, principal at Pushpaniketan School in Panvel, the AC train is an ideal solution for her travelling woes. Nair said, “I was told that tickets won’t be charged for the inaugural run and it was scheduled around by regular time so, I decide to try it. It is very comfortable and most importantly has safety features for women such as the talk back system. I will definitely use the train, if its timings are according to my schedule.”

“Some of the passengers made genuine mistake as it is the inaugural run, we are letting them off. But, we are trying to inform as many to board with only valid tickets,” said one of the ticket examiners onboard. The train will begin its regular operations from January 31 and will run 16 services a day. A commuter will have to pay about 1.3 times more than their first class fare for the AC train. This is the second AC service that is being run on Mumbai’s suburban railway system. The Western Railway has been running one service between Churchgate and Virar since December 2017.