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Mumbai-Goa double-decker faces double whammy

Thursday, 10 April 2014 - 6:45am IST | Agency: dna
  • The double decker train running between Bhopal and Indore

The ambitious plan to run a double-decker train on the Mumbai-Goa route continues to be caught in a quagmire even as the commissioner of railway safety last week gave permission to Central Railway (CR) to conduct trials of the train between Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and Madgaon to check its technical feasibility.

However, almost six months after the railways had decided to give a double-decker train — the one running between Bhopal and Indore — to CR to conduct the trials, the matter has not moved an inch. But the city-based railway officials put the blame for this delay squarely on the state government and its inability to apply pressure on the Railway Board to give CR a double-decker rake for the trials.

While there are no spare double-decker rakes with the railways, the understanding was that the one running between Bhopal and Indore would be given as the train has been making heavy operational losses.

That plan, however, is caught with local politicians who have made it a political issue. The have called it a ploy of the Congress-led railway ministry to take away something from an opposition-ruled state (read BJP's Madhya Pradesh) and give it to a Congress-led state (Maharashtra).

"If we have the rake ready here, the trials could have been conducted and the railways could have taken a decision to deploy it in the profitable Mumbai-Goa route," said a senior railway official.

Railway officials said that while leaders from Maharashtra have aired their railway demands in public platforms — like at a ceremony at Kurla Terminus when chief minister Prithviraj Chavan asked railway minister Malikkarjun Kharge to re-start the First AC coach for Mahalaxmi Express — the demands for bigger projects like the Mumbai-Goa double-decker service are rare.

"It requires a government push or else these files tend to get stuck in the railway board. So, many other projects of Mumbai, like the elevated corridor between Churchgate-Virar, the creation of a terminus at Parel among others, are stuck in Delhi. This too would go that way if the state doesn't jump in. After all, it is the people of the state that are going to benefit the most as the AC capacity between Mumbai and Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg will be greatly enhanced," said an official.

For the railways, the double-decker between Mumbai and Goa — one of the country's busiest routes — could be a money-spinner. The view is that a double-decker train, with its enhanced capacity of 120 passengers per coach against the 60 to 70 in a normal coach, can really give the thriving bus sector a run for its money.

Despite the presence of 27 trains on the route, the passenger flow just doesn't seem to stem. Currently, during off-season, the number of buses between Mumbai and Goa are around 50 each way, which rises to around 90 each way during holiday season. Each of these buses carry around 45 to 50 passengers. The railways' thinking is that a 12-coach double-decker would be able to carry 1,440 passengers — almost as good as 25 to 28 buses.

No spare train
While there are no spare double-decker rakes with the railways, the understanding was that the one running between Bhopal and Indore would be given as the train has been making heavy operational losses.




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