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Travel woes of Konkan Rly passengers during Ganpati

Thursday, September 13, 2018
By Shrikant Khuperkar

Ganeshotsav, the famous festival of Hindus is respectfully celebrated in the entire Konkan region, with much fanfare and excitement. The entire working class of Mumbaikars (chakarmani in Marathi) usually rush to their native places in the Konkan region a couple of days before the grand festivities begin. The people prefer travelling by the railways rather than opting for other modes of transport which include MSRTC buses, private buses and private vehicles.

“Konkan Railway has successfully completed twenty-three years. But till date not many Mumbaikars fully enjoy the benefits of special trains scheduled for the Konkan region during Ganpati festival. Around 200 trains ply across the region, from CSTM, LTT, Dadar, Bandra terminus and Ahmadabad, during the Ganpati festival.
However only few can avail of these benefits as online ticket booking and physical reservations gets full within 10 minutes of opening of booking counters and the system,” said Jayesh Kadam, a regular traveler to the Konkan region.

Holiday special trains always run 2-3 hours behind the scheduled time and these trains halt at select stations i.e. Panvel, Roha, Mangaon, Veer, Khed, Chiplun, Sangmeshwar, Ratnagiri, Rajapur, Kankavali and Savantwadi.

“Trains of the Konkan Line have been plying on a single track since its inception. The authorities have never bothered to develop another track despite the growing number of travellers. The holiday trains are made to halt for hours or so till regular trains pass, this situation leads to a further delay by a few hours,” said Jayesh Anant Pavaskar.

He further added, “I went to drop off my wife and daughter at Panvel to catch the Diva-Savantwadi passenger train, but they could not get a seat as the train was already full when it come from Sawantwadi to Diva station.”

Many travelers prefer the Diva-Sawantwadi passenger train due to cheap fares as compared to other holiday special trains. The train fare is around Rs 100 from Diva to Sawantwadi and takes around 14 hours to complete the journey. Passengers from Malad, Goregaon, Chembur, Mankhurd and Panvel catch the train while coming from Sawantwadi to Panvel. Therefore passengers standing/waiting at Diva station don’t get to enter. After reaching Diva station, railway authorities switch off the lights and fans, since these facilities on trains run on battery. Passengers from Panvel or Diva end up spending nearly three hours in darkness.

Rajesh Kakye said, “I usually travel to my native place in Sawantwadi by train along with 10 family members every year. We buy a local train ticket from Panvel to Diva and from Diva to Sawantwadi. The cost works out to around Rs 140 per person. We cannot afford to travel by bus or private luxury bus as it costs much higher than the train fare. Due to festival session, fares of private buses are skyrocketing. So we prefer train travel which is economical, barring the hardships experienced by family members to reach our destination.”

Sagar Advit, Nilesh Kadam and Santosh Kaste said, “Since no trains ply during late night hours on the said route, the railways should accommodate stranded passengers. Our regional MP and MLAs are least bothered about the hardships experienced by us during festival travel journeys. They approach us at the time of elections for votes and then disappear until the next elections.”

Another traveler, on the condition of anonymity, said, “I am residing at Diva and our Diva Passengers' Association placed big banners/posters requesting special holiday trains from Diva to the Konkan region. The holiday special trains coming from Dadar and CSMT halt at Diva station but passengers seated inside the trains keep the doors shut locked. We do not get to board the trains and therefor we end up stranded at the platform throughout the night. We also have to carry food from home as all the shops nearby are closed.”

When this correspondent reached Panvel station, he observed that many passengers were stranded and unable to board the passenger trains. The RPF and GRP teams help stranded passengers to board trains and try and accommodate seats for them in the trains.

The other day, around 300 travelers rushed to Panvel to catch the trains – namely the CSMT-Sawantwadi Holiday Special, Tutari Express and the Bandra-Madgaon Holiday Special. However, the doors were locked from inside. To ease tensions and prevent the situation from escalating, RPF in-charge Arun Nigam and his team humbly requested the passengers inside to open the doors, saying, “Bhai-sahab aap jaise ja rahe hai vaise hi inko bhi jaana hai; aap darvaza kholo!”.

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