Citizens' Issues
Mr Prabhu, Mumbai local train travellers need simple solutions, not fancy SPVs

A cyclical timetable, more frequent trains and fewer halts can bring a big relief for 80 lakh daily commuters in Mumbai


I have been travelling in Mumbai's suburban rail network for more than 15 years and for the first time, I saw what difference it makes to have somebody from the city as Minister for Railways. After the chaos on Central Railway on 2nd January, Suresh Prabhu, the Minister has announced setting up a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to address issues.


We will work with Maharashtra Govt to create a separate SPV to address State issues. Discussed with chief minister (CM). Both Govts will work on it,” the Rail Minister tweeted.


After the violent protests at Diva, Prabhu tweeted, “Suburban rail network is under severe stress. Long neglected. Drawing up plan to revamp it on top priority. Need time to implement. Huge task."


This is exactly what I wrote in April 2012. While commenting on a fire in a signal cabin near Kurla that time, I wrote, "Any small incident like signal failure can bring the suburban rail network across Mumbai to a halt. The midnight fire in a signal cabin near Kurla burnt down signal gears and cables. But then why is there no backup system in place? Why on earth is the Central Railways running its entire system on a single line of resources?"


The once-efficient suburban rail network is the lifeline of Mumbai. However, over the past two decades it is creaking under the weight of passenger influx, corruption and lack of investment in upgrading infrastructure. The extraordinary crowding of trains and poor commuter facilities such as stations makes the Mumbai suburban train system so prone to accidents that more than 10-12 people die in railway mishaps every day – a figure that would have made front-page news anywhere else in the world but meets with apathy in India.


The Times of the UK calls Mumbai’s local railway network as one of the deadliest in the world. According to a report by the High Level Safety Review Committee set up by the government in September 2011, about 6,000 people die on Mumbai's crowded local rail network every year. The committee, headed by Dr Anil Kakodkar, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, recommended that the grim situation on Mumbai's suburban rail system needed to be tackled on a war-footing.


Three years after the report, nothing much has changed, except now Mumbai has somebody from the neighbourhood who understands the problems, vulnerability and cracking infrastructure of the suburban network, the lifeline.


Although Prabhu’s idea of setting up an SPV would take care of funding issues for Mumbai's suburban rail network, there are several other things that can be done immediately without spending a single penny.


One of them is re-testing the cyclic timetable. Traditional approaches of increasing capacity by increasing the number of coaches in rakes have not resulted in any improvement in the problem of overcrowding. The situation is further aggravated with frequent delays and uneven frequency of trains. So why not to try cyclic timetable?


After doing a lot of research over years, septuagenarian Dipak Gandhi, chairman of Mumbai Suburban Railway Passenger Association (MSRPA), and his colleagues have prepared a cyclic timetable, which can reduce passenger load on each local train by about 30% to 40% and also cut the travel time by 20% to 25% for long-distance commuters. The cyclic timetable also makes it possible to introduce 30% more services with the same number of rakes and tracks through super-fast and sector wise services.


Cyclic timetable as the name suggests is a timetable, which repeats itself after a fixed duration. A key feature of this timetable is that commuters do not have to memorise the whole timetable. All that they need to remember is the cycle time at which a train repeats itself; thus, if the cycle time is 12 minutes then even if someone has missed his train he knows that he will have to wait a maximum of 12 minutes to catch the next train. (Read: Reduce halts to gain speed on Mumbai local trains, say experts.


A simple mathematical analysis done by Rajaram Bojji, former managing director of Konkan Railway and inventor of the anti-collision device (ACD) also shows that the use of cyclic timetable can reduce the turnaround time for a local train by around 30% as well as waiting periods for commuters.

Another issue is mis-management of train traffic. For example, on Friday, an overhead wire was broken near Thakurli, which closed one of the slow tracks. What the Railways did was to divert all trains running on slow tracks to a fast track. Already the fast track carries all fast local trains, mail/express and goods trains. When you add slow trains on this track, it simply crumbles.


Even if the slow trains are diverted, then it should be done only for a particular stretch (between crossings) instead of a bigger route that affects more number of stations and commuters. For example, when there was issue at Thakurli, all slow track trains could have been diverted back on the same slow track after Diva instead of making it run on fast track till Thane. At the same time, one or two special trains could have been arranged to start from Diva so that the crowd could have moved to their destination. However, no slow train (coming from Thane towards Kalyan) was terminated at Diva and sent back towards Mumbai. This made commuters, who were waiting for a local train for more than an hour restless and then angry. Some local elements also added fuel to the fire and it erupted.


Last but not the least is need to have parallel roads, especially for the stretch between Thane to Kalyan. On Friday, I along with lakhs of commuters, was forced to walk down the rail track from Diva to Dombivli as there is no other mode of transport exists. Not to mention the loot of commuters at Dombivli station by auto-rickshaw drivers. They were demanding Rs500-Rs600 from commuters just to reach Kalyan as against the normal fare of Rs20-25 per head. There were some buses plying but were too crowded, in addition to unending queues.


In 2012, Dinesh Trivedi, the then railway minister, while speaking at an event organised by Moneylife Foundation, had said that the entire railway system is a mess and there is a urgent need to modernize it so that people can travel safely with some dignity, unlike what every commuter, especially on Mumbai's local trains experience every day. “There are no maintenance contracts given by the Railways and they are carrying out even the basic repairs on ad-hoc basis,” he had said.


Remember, Mumbai commuters are 'trained' to be patient by the hardships of daily commute. Nevertheless, they do have an anger building against the system, especially modes of public transport. And unless there is some visible improvement in the suburban rail network, the anger may erupt anytime and anywhere.


Hope, the local man Suresh Prabhu looks into these suggestions and help ease the life (of commuters) and (rail) line before it is too late.



Dr. Rakesh Goyal

3 years ago

Mr. Prabhu travels by road in Mumbai. How will he know the pains of local train travelers?

Further, now his railways related eyes and ears must be same set of railway officers, who are instrumental of making railways a chronic cardiac patient and have vested interest in keeping railway system sick.

The first step for Mr. Prabhu must be to define minimum acceptable and measurable service levels. This has to be done with consumers of railway services. Then he need to propose the detailed and point-by-point action plan with deadlines to provide these minimum acceptable services. Then he need to calculate cost of plan. SPV will be an instrument to fund the cost and recover the money. All these must be done with social and technical audit in a transparent and accountable method.

To propose some SPV without defining - what to do, is normal bureaucratic avoidance tactics.

MCA charts roadmap for implementation of new Accounting Standards

The IndAS once applied will converge accounting procedures in India with the IFRS standards


The Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) released a revised roadmap for implementation of Indian Accounting Standards for companies other than banks, insurers and non-banking finance companies. 
The IndAS standards as the Indian Accounting Standards are known, shall be applicable on a voluntary basis for financial statements for accounting periods beginning on or after 1 April 2015, the MCA said in a release on Friday, 2 January.
The IndAS standards will become mandatory for the said class of companies for accounting periods beginning 1 April 2016, for companies whose debt or equity is listed anywhere, or has a net worth of Rs500 crore or more.
Other companies with net worth above Rs500 crore are also to be included, and this will also be applicable to holdings, subsidiaries, JVs and associate companies with net worth of or above Rs500 crore.
The MCA release also said that the IndAS would be applicable to, "On mandatory basis for the accounting periods beginning on or after April 1, 2017, with comparatives for the periods ending 31st March, 2017, or thereafter, for the companies specified: (a) Companies whose equity and/or debt securities are listed or are in the process of being listed on any stock exchange in India or outside India and having net worth of less than Rs500 crore. (b)Companies other than those covered in paragraph (ii) and paragraph (iii)(a) above that is unlisted companies having net worth of Rs250 crore or more but less than rupees Rs500 crore."
Sai Venkateshwaran, Partner and Head – Accounting Advisory Services, KPMG India said, “The adoption of these IFRS converged standards will also go a long way in enhancing the transparency in and quality of financial reporting by Indian corporates, as Ind-AS is expected to fill the many gaps in Indian GAAP, and will also aid as one of the measures to take India up in the governance and transparency rankings globally.”
The MCA specified what kind of companies the IndAS would be mandatory for. However, Venkateshwaran explained that, “while the revised roadmap applies to companies other than banking companies, insurance companies and NBFCs, it may become applicable indirectly to such entities as well, if they are a subsidiary, joint-venture of associate company of an entity otherwise covered under the roadmap. Accordingly, such entities may need to adopt the Ind-AS standards at least for the purpose of consolidation by the parent or investor company.”


Nifty, Sensex headed higher – Weekly closing report

Nifty may hit 8500 over the coming week


The S&P BSE Sensex closed the week that ended on 2nd January at 27,888 (up 646 points or 2.37%), while the NSE's CNX Nifty ended at 8,395 (up 195 points or 2.37%).


Previous week we had mentioned that a weekly close below 8,140 on the Nifty may signify deeper correction. Nifty went higher during the week with almost all the gains coming on the last day.

Last Friday's gains continued on Monday as well. Nifty closed at 8,247 (up 46 points or 0.56%). For the entire session, the benchmark managed to stay above Friday’s close.


Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said manufacturing continued to be a concern, despite reforms initiated by the government. Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said inflows of foreign direct investment into India rose by about 25% to $17.35 billion in the April-October period of the current fiscal.

On Tuesday, Nifty managed to stay above 8,215, the support level mentioned by us in Monday's closing report. Nifty closed at 8,248 (up 2 points or 0.02%).

The Indian economy is better placed than it was six months ago because of slowing inflation, political stability and a lower current account deficit, but the banking sector remains subdued because of weak demand for credit and pressure on asset quality, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said in its bi-annual Financial Stability Report.

On Wednesday, the market closed in the positive for the fourth consecutive session. Nifty closed at 8,283 (up 34 points or 0.42%).

The Ministry of Finance made appointments of MD&CEOs of four nationalised banks, Indian Overseas Bank, Oriental Bank of Commerce, Vijaya Bank and United Bank of India. The government has decided to separate the post of Chairman and MD&CEO. Fiscal deficit was Rs 5.25 trillion ($83.08 billion) during April-November, or 98.9% of the full-year target, data showed on Wednesday. The deficit was 93.9% during the same period a year ago.

With not many triggers on Thursday and markets worldwide celebrating New Year, Nifty moved in a narrow range and closed marginally higher at at 8,284 (up 1 point or 0.02%). After market hours on Thursday, the government decided to increase basic excise duty on petrol and diesel (both branded and unbranded) by Rs2 per litre to build 15,000 kilometres of roads during current and next financial year.

On Friday, Nifty shot up rising to 8,395 (up 111 points or 1.35%). Adjusted for seasonal factors, the headline HSBC India Purchasing Managers' Index climbed to a two-year high of 54.5 in December, up from 53.3 in November.

Among the Nifty stocks, the top five stocks for the week were BHEL (9%); JSPL (8%); Sesa Sterlite (7%); Asian Paints (7%) and Tata Motors (5%) while the top five losers were M&M (-2%); Bajaj Auto (-1%); Punjab National Bank (-1%); Reliance Industries (0%) and BPCL (0%).

Of the 1,483 companies on the NSE, 1,203 companies closed in the green, 258 companies closed in the red while 22 companies closed flat.

Out of the 27 main sectors tracked by Moneylife, the top five and the bottom five sectors for this week were:


ML Top sector


ML Worst sector








Oil & Gas


Non-Ferrous Metals




Financial Services




Farm & Farm Inputs






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