‘MEMU’rable

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The Mainline Electrical Multiple Units (MEMU) train services recently launched on the Ernakulam-Kollam section have been an instant hit and the Indian railways has finally succeeded in catering to the needs of the southern state.

The fact that tickets issued daily for passenger trains increased by 1,000 in the first week of the launch of the popular service is testimony to the fact that they have emerged the most convenient mode of public conveyance.
“While the total tickets issued for travel on second ordinary class alone for the 10-day period before the launch of MEMU service (April 11 to April 20) were 25, 360, they jumped dramatically the week after the MEMUs started running (April 20 to April 30) to 35, 825.

This means an increase of 10, 465 passengers, or the issuance of 1,000 tickets daily. This excludes season tickets and other passes,” a senior railway official said.

He was confident about figures rising further as “the MEMU is in its infant stage and many people are just getting to know about its operations. The examination period is over and vacations have just started. Even otherwise, we record a rise in revenue during vacation time every year as more people travel.”

The response is noteworthy given that both the MEMU services through the Kottayam and Alappuzha sessions run at non-peak hours.

“It is only in Kerala that MEMU trains have toilet facilities, that too at both ends of the train. This plus the fact that they have halts even at small stations and they are faster than normal passenger service trains is what makes them a convenient option for commuters. The seating facilities match those of express trains and the coaches are made in such a way that there is ample space for standing and holding on to the rings from any position,” Khemraj Meena, public relations officer said.

Security wise too, passengers find MEMU trains an attractive option. “Unlike in other trains, on the MEMU services, the lady’s compartments are not separated from other coaches and the passenger sitting at one end can see the other end of the train. So ladies, even if they have to de-board at the last station are not isolated as happened in the Soumya incident. The vast space between rakes means that lady commuters won’t become easy targets for miscreants,” Sreedevi Mekkat, a regular traveller between Alapuzha and Ambalapuzha stations, said.

Another benefit is that operation wise, the MEMU is more economical.

“The MEMU can reach 80 km/hr in 10 to 12 seconds and thereafter its motor stops. No electricity is consumed then as the train is on a free run, regenerative brake could be applied. If for one passenger kilometre a normal train requires 150 kilo calories, a MEMU requires only 50 to 80 kilo calories, that means only one-third of the original,” said P. Raju, former railway official and former general manager RITES Urban Transport.

Raju said Kerala was very suitable for running MEMUs as it had similar conditions to the Bombay/New Bombay lines where the MEMU was found to be successful. “The only thing is that the services are being operated during non-peak hours. If this situation is corrected and more MEMU services are introduced, the advantage would be that express trains do not need to stop at minimum stations. For example express trains have no stop between Egmore-Thambaram since commuters can always depend on the frequent MEMU services,” Raju said.

Two more MEMU services announced in the budget are yet to hit the
rails. While the railways has promised to start a MEMU service between Thrissur and Ernakulam, connecting Quilon with Nagarcoil has been delayed due to the non-completion of track doubling works at the stretch beyond Thiruvananthapuram.

Meena said the railways intend to change the timings of one of the MEMU trains for the convenience of peak hour travellers. “Currently there are six passenger trains operating during the busy office times and we plan to replace one of them with a MEMU service in the near future.”

However, railways sources said the MEMU service via Kottayam will most probably stick to the current timings. “This is because there is no train to the Kottayam side from Ernakulam Junction after 11.45 am till the Venad Express scheduled at
5.15 pm.”

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