Pune Commuters pin hopes on frequency of long-distance trains

‘More trains for Rajasthan, UP, Bihar, J&K and Assam; better services at station’

PUNE: COMMUTER ORGANISATIONS in the city are hoping that the Union Budget, along with the Railway Budget, on Wednesday will meet some of their demands, primarily concerning long-distance trains and improvement in facilities at the “worldclass” Pune Railway Station. Harsha Shah, President of the Railway Pravasi Group (RPG), said several requests were sent to the Railway Ministry, throughout the year, to increase the frequency of long-distance trains and improve the “pathetic condition” of Pune Railway Station. We are hopeful that some of the demands will be included in Wednesday’s Budget.

Shah said the frequency of trains to states like Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Assam is pathetic. “These states have higher passenger traffic and fewer trains, which results in longer waiting figures and massive overcrowding,” she said.

“Is the Railways waiting for some untoward incident to happen ?” she asked.

The Railway Pravasi Group said there is only one train to Jammu and Kashmir and, that too, does not cover a major part of the state. “There should be a train from Udhampur to Baramulla, to take care of the major part of the state,” she added.

Similarly, for Bihar, there is only one train — Pune-Patna daily. “Because there is only one train, the waiting figures touch 1,500 to 2,000 daily. There should be at least three trains in a day,” she said.

Pointing out at the huge rush on Bihar-bound passengers at the Pune station during the evening, she said, “There is no space to put your feet at the platform. The compartments are so overcrowded that an untoward incident is just one step away.”

Similarly for Uttar Pradesh, she said, “There should daily trains to Gorakhpur, Lucknow and Darbanga. Currently, they run once a week.” “Overcrowding is normal on these trains,” she added.

Rajasthan is another station, which is covered very poorly by the Pune division of the Central Railways. “Cities like Ajmer, Udaipur, Bikaner and Jaipur are not properly covered. There are very few trains to these destinations. We hope people of Rajasthan and tourists will get some justice with this budget,” said activist Ashok Morwal, a native of Rajasthan.

“There is no direct train to Ajmer,” added Shah. The RPG further pointed out that trains to Assam and other Northeast states are also very few and far from Pune station, which proves a nightmare for commuters. “There are any number of defence personnel who head to Assam or return from Assam and other Northeastern states. Similarly, there is a huge student population from these states in Pune. Yet, the Railways seem not to care for them. We hope the Union Budget will this time increase the frequency of trains to this destination,” she said. “What is shocking is there is only one holiday special to Guwahati, which is highly regular,” she added.

Gulam Ali Bhaldar, president of Chinchwad Pravasi Sangh, said, “Pune-Lonavla augmentation of tracks is necessary to help increase train services between the two regions. “Suprisingly, the government is ready to spend Rs 12,000 on Pune Metro service, whereas they cannot give less than Rs 1,000 to improve the train services between Lonavla and Pune. Even Metro project covers only up to Pimpri, whereas local trains reach at least Lonavla,” he said.

Railway spokesperson Manoj Jhawar said, “A survey has been conducted to lay third track on Pune-Lonavla section…Things are in progress.”

Bhaldar said Pune Railway Station remains overcrowded as several express trains are not given a halt at the Chinchwad station. “If express trains, such as Indrayani Express, Pargati Express and Ernakulum Express, are given a halt at Chinchwad, a large number of commuters from Pimpri-Chinchwad, Dehu Road, Talegaon, Hinjewadi and nearby areas, will benefit,” he said.

Shah said the Pune station, primed as a “world-class station”, is daily struggling to handle 150 trains which land and depart every day. “The current facilities, including the state of platforms, waiting rooms, drinking water facility and safety of passengers, leaves much to be desired. The Railways are also refusing to accord ‘zone’ status to Pune division of the Central Railways,” she said.