The average occupancy and ridership in Pune to Lonavla local trains have slipped to 52%. The train ridership was more than 75% before Covid.
“A total of 44 local trains operated between Pune and Lonavla from 5.45am till 10pm before the pandemic. However, only 40 trains are operational due to the mandatory corridor block. The ridership has gone down, and there are some specific reasons for the same,” Ramdas Bhise, PRO and divisional commercial manager, Pune rail division, told TOI.
As per the official, the average daily ridership, which stood at 98,000 in 2019, is now at 60,000.Similarly, the average per-trip ridership, which was around 2,200, has gone down to 1,500. The total capacity of the local trains stands at 3,017 passengers.
“The travel pattern of people has changed after the pandemic. Train movements were suspended for a while, and people found other modes of transport to commute. While some opted for their own vehicles, many chose to share rides or carpool. These people didn’t come back to using the train again. Such factors may have contributed towards the ridership going down,” Bhise said.Earlier this month, many MPs, during a meeting with the general manager of the Central Railway, had demanded an increase in the number of trains between Pune and Lonavla.
Senior Central Railway officials said they would look into the issue and increase the frequency. “At present, we have no plans to increase the number of rakes,” Shivraj Manaspure, the CPRO of Central Railway, said.
Commuters claimed that the reduced number of trains in the afternoon was one of the primary reasons for the service not attracting the expected number of passengers. The number of trains has come down to 40 from 44 due to the corridor block. The afternoon time is crucial as many commuters, especially students, are unable to avail the service. This has resulted in a drop in the number of passengers.
The railway authorities should understand that if the service is strengthened, the traffic on the roads, especially on the Pune-Mumbai expressway, will come down, resulting in fewer accidents, Rajesh Nandedkar, a commuter, said.
Pruthvi Gokhale, another traveller, said, “The train service between Pune and Lonavla is shut from 11.15am to 3pm. It doesn’t make sense to keep the service shut. I travelled regularly by local train before the pandemic, however, now I share a ride due to unavailability of trains.”