People have found an escape route in the form of air-conditioned local, to avoid increasing rush and try maintaining social distancing inside local trains. There has been a sudden surge by 8-10 times in the number of people who purchased season passes for travelling in AC local on both Western and Central Railway. This comes at a time when the total number of passengers who travelled in local trains on both lines on February 2 is around 32 lakh.
According to figures, on February 1, the Western Railway (WR) sold 233 season tickets and 93 journey tickets. Likewise, on the Central Railway, their were sales of 46 season passes and 27 daily journey tickets. In December, they were selling 2-3 season passes per day while in January this went up to 15-17 per day on the Central Railway. While on the Western Railway this was merely 25-35 season passes.
Since the unlocking, the WR have sold 2400 season passes that started running since December last year in this pandemic. The Central Railway started operating AC local only recently with an intention of operating them on the Harbour line as well. “We hope that there is demand from people for AC locals so that more can be introduced,” said a senior CR official.
The passenger associations claim that the passengers namely want safe travel and as AC locals are barely crowded, they prefer travelling in that even if it means paying more. The railway officials claim that the fare is barely 70-75 paise per kilometre for an AC local.
Ever since permission to travel in local trains came in June last year; the railways permitted 700 people per train after following social distancing. Now, the situation seems to have gone for a toss and the total daily commuters in local trains have gone up to 32 lakh which is almost 42 percent increase.
“We are seeing an increase in the number of people buying season passes in AC local which is a good sign,” said Shivaji Sutar, chief PRO, Central Railway. All through the lockdown, travelling has been a burden for people who were spending up to Rs 500 per day. The AC local will even then prove a cheaper deal for people.