Till date, Mumbai is the only city to have AC local trains. AC locals were introduced in Mumbai way back in 2017, when the Mumbai metro was in its initial stage, and was in no position to compete with the suburban services in the country. Since then, more AC locals have been introduced in Mumbai only, the other cities have not seen introduction of AC locals so far.
Mumbai now has AC locals operating in most of its stations in western, central and harbour lines. AC locals cost some money, but considering the hot and sultry weather throughout the year in Mumbai, the AC locals have been a major boon for the city commuters, who can afford some money at the expense of comfort of travel. So far AC locals have been so popular in Mumbai, that the price of AC locals has now been slashed to half. The AC locals do have a price difference with the normal locals, which is causing some percentage of travellers to avoid it.
The price difference comes as a hurdle to commuters from the fact that people who have already bought tickets for normal locals can not board an AC local. Same is the story for passengers with monthly or yearly passes. This did not cause a hurdle to Kolkata Metro, where both non-AC and AC metros were simultaneously run for a decade as their price was the same. This does not even cause a hurdle to commuters in Kolkata Trams, which are both AC and non-AC as here commuters pay after boarding the tram. This is also not a major hurdle for Hyderabad MMTS, in which a few of the coaches are air-conditioned.
Suburban railways has an excellent network in Kolkata and Chennai, and is also operational in Delhi, Kanpur-Lucknow and Hyderabad in the form of MMTS. Major cities like Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Kochi, and Patna do not possess a suburban rail service at all, although they have a good rail network within the limits of the city. Also, most suburban trains in Delhi, Kanpur-Lucknow and Hyderabad are irregular, unreliable, and are not interconnected to other modes of transportation. Proper planning and implementation was lacking among the railways in these cities, for which the local trains are becoming unpopular day by day, causing many routes, like the Delhi Ring Railway to be phased out from use.
With proper planning, suburban railway can be a lifeline for the city commuters as in Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. And what the city-dwellers require at present is air-conditioned trains which provide some comfort during summer in the already packed trains. We have also seen how modern metros, with excellent planning, can be a good rapid transit system in cities like Delhi, Bengaluru and Kochi. Since we have a large network of railway lines, and the largest commuting by railways, we surely can come up with modern solutions like introducing AC locals to make commuting faster and cheaper.
Written by – Himadri Paul