In this post, I focus more on passenger amenities, some of which, to me, are real low-hanging fruits that can be attempted quite easily. As much as having extra lines, standing coaches, more women's coaches etc. is necessary, it is equally necessary to improve the train-travelling experience for the millions who travel by Mumbai's lifeline every day. Some of things that can be done are:
a. Propagating the use of ATVMs: It remains a big mystery to me as to why the automated ticket vending machine (ATVM) system has not found favour with people. Especially when someone has to spend nearly 10 minutes (more on weekends) in the ticket queue at most stations. I use the ATVM card and have, on more than one occassion, faced the uncomfortable situation of people asking me to punch their tickets on the ATVM (after all, how many people can I help out ?). When it involves paying just 50 bucks as refundable deposit and with a 1-year validity of the recharge (as low as Rs 50 I guess), I cannot understand why people do not opt for it. Even 2 journeys every month is enough to ensure that the recharge is not wasted. Maybe it is due to inadequate propagation of the card's benefits. Railways do need to ensure that the ATVMs are more widely used than today. That would help to cut down the queues (since more ATVMs can be installed).
b. Ensuring that fans in the trains work: It is so frustrating to board a train in peak summer, only to find that the fan in the gangway is not working. And it is not an isolated case. I am sure all travellers would have experienced it multiple times. Is it too much to ask that the fans be functioning at all times ? Surely not.
b. Facilities at stations: It goes without saying that facilities at stations need a face lift. A start has been made with escalators at some stations but it needs to be speeded up. Heights of platforms are a big concern at many stations, and need to be immediately addressed. It may also make sense to have a proper and manned first-aid center at each station just to help out in case of any medical emergency.
And finally, a last word on passenger education. It would help immensely if people have some common sense while travelling. It is so annoying for others when a person boards at Vile Parle during peak evening hours, wanting to get down at Andheri (which is on the opposite side) in a Borivali-bound train (when the next Andheri-bound train is a couple of minutes later). The treatment meted out by Virar-bound passengers to anyone wanting to get down at Borivali is legendary. While I may not always agree with their methods, I sure understand their basic logic. Maybe a bit of passenger education in the form of announcements at stations might work (e.g. announcing that the next train is an Andheri-train and requesting Andheri passengers to wait). Small things like these may go on to make a big difference in the lives of the millions travelling by Mumbai's lifeline.