In a Christmas gift to Mumbaikars, the country's first air-conditioned (AC) suburban train commenced its services on Monday, thus realising the long-awaited dream of lakhs of commuters.
The commuters, excited at the launch of the AC local which is expected to bring them respite during the scorching summer, captured the historic moments by clicking selfies as the train reached the Churchgate station at 11.16 am.
Earlier, BJP MPs Kirit Somaiya, Gopal Shetty, Maharashtra minister Vinod Tawde, Mumbai BJP chief Ashish Shelar and WR General Manager Anil Kumar Gupta flagged off the train.
Gupta said, "This AC local is being run by a prototype coach and we will invite feedback from commuters and incorporate it into our next fleet of coaches."
Built in Chennai at a cost of Rs 54 crore, the 12-car rake of the AC local arrived on April 4, 2016.
Initially, it was meant to be run on the Central Railway (CR) corridor. However, later it was decided to run it first on the WR corridor.
Subsequently, the WR conducted about 65 trial runs of the train before starting its services for the public today.
According to WR Chief Public Relations Officer Ravinder Bhakar, the last successful technical run of the train, running on broad gauge, was conducted yesterday.
Initially, the AC local will operate only on the Churchgate-Borivili section.
The train will make six trips daily (12 services per day) and from January 1 next year, it will run from Churchgate to Virar, Bhakar said.
"The train will not operate on Saturdays and Sundays as it requires maintenance," he said, adding that the 12 services of the AC train will replace the existing 12 non-AC services.
Mumbaikars, who took the first ride, expressed delight at the new service.
"It's quite unbelievable. I can't express my feeling. I pray to the almighty that every local is made like this," Sheela Raut, a commuter, said.
Railway activists too expressed happiness at the launch of the AC train.
Kailash Verma, an activist of the Mumbai Rail Pravasi Sangh, said, "The commissioning of this train is a 0testimony that the Indian Railways is trying hard to meet the demands of the passengers. I hope that maintenance and punctuality of the trains will be monitored on priority.