Monday, July 13, 2020

The Mumbai Local

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic suburban trains in Mumbai, generally called Locals, are not in service for general commuters. A few daily services though are run for those working in government departments or in essential services. And indeed, without this lifeline, Mumbai has come to a standstill. These Locals are an integral part of every Mumbaikar’s life, and though some do not use it themselves, they too depend on it. Think of it, the milkman, the newspaperwalla, the dabbawallas, our servants and others on whom we depend, rely on this untiring and reliable electric workhorse, just as generations before us have. Before the first electric Local was run on 3rd February 1925 between Victoria Terminus and Coorla, local services were operated using steam locomotives, as seen in the picture below. Originally the local services on the Bombay Baroda and Central India Railway or BB&CI (now known as Western Railway) operated up to Colaba. With the closing of the Colaba Railway Station in 1930 the mainline services were terminated at the newly built Bombay Central terminus, whilst the suburban services extended up to Churchgate. Coming back to electrification, the electric local trains, known as Electric Multiple Units or EMUs, first began with the use of 1500V DC traction in 1925. Nearly 90 years later the entire suburban network of WR and CR was converted to the more efficient 25000V AC traction in line with that used in the rest of the country. Initially, each EMU rake consisted of 4 carriages. Later, as passengers increased, the number of carriages or cars was increased to 6, then 9 and 12, with a few trains running with 15 cars. Now over 7.6 million passengers are ferried daily by Western, Central, Harbour and Trans-Harbour suburban trains making it the busiest network in the world! And this network continues to expand as the Mumbai Metropolitan Region keeps growing. And so, till the Locals do not function on a regular basis, as they did before 22nd March, the pulse of Mumbai’s heartbeat will not be the same.

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