CHENNAI: The move restricting men from suburban trains during peak hours has drawn flak from commuters and made verbal duels between passengers and railway staff an everyday affair at stations in Chennai and its suburbs. Apart from men, women, who are accompanied by men, too have expressed their inconvenience. Women passengers, though they reach stations at 4.30 pm, are forced to wait till 7 pm as their male companions are not allowed to travel.
Barring those engaged in essential services, men are not allowed to travel from 7 to 9.30 am and from 4.30 to 7 pm. S Sangeetha of Chengalpattu, a school teacher, said she reached Mambalam station with her friend at 4.35 pm on Saturday, but waited for nearly two and a half hours before boarding a train.
“The railways policy will benefit only women travelling alone and those accompanied by female relatives. It’s not only discriminatory, but also illogical to restrict men from taking trains during peak hours.”
Many college students and working men rued that the travel restriction is as good as denying travel on suburban trains entirely.
“The end-to-end travel time of suburban stretches — Chennai Beach-Chengalpattu, Chennai-Arakkonam and Chennai-Gummidipundi — is 120 minutes. If we are not allowed to travel during peak hours, we will have to choose either reserved express specials or buses. The resumption of suburban train services hardly benefits us since we are not allowed to take the trains between 7 am and 9.30 am,” said a college student.
After the lockdown was enforced last March, suburban specials were rechristened and introduced as ‘workmen special’ in April for ferrying railway employees to carry out essential maintenance work. As the lockdown norms were eased, more railways staff were allowed on the special trains. Since October 5, the railways started allowing transportation of essential service employees nominated by the State government.
On October 23, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami wrote to Railways Minister Piyush Goyal urging him to resume suburban services. Presently, 660 services are operated on suburban routes. A senior railway official said, “The decision to allow men during peak hours is yet to be approved by Railway Board. We are awaiting instructions.”
Ticket counters not opened in Egmore Rail passengers said ticket counters at the main entrance of the Chennai Egmore station on the Gandhi-Irwin Road remain closed although suburban stretches are open for transportation. Passengers entering the station through the main entrance were forced to walk to the other end of the station on EVR Salai to buy tickets. “Railway staff at the main ticket counters were forced to sit idle without any work,” said a passenger.