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The Lifeline of Mumbai: A Historical Perspective on the Suburban Railway

Blox Social
Posted on
Sep 22, 2023

In the heart of India's financial capital, where time flows like a river, exists the Mumbai Suburban Railway, often affectionately referred to as "local trains" or simply "locals." Referred to as the lifeline of the city, Mumbaikars simply cannot carry out their normal lives without it. This is not just a mode of transportation; but a pulse that courses through the veins of this sprawling metropolis.

Covering 390 kilometers across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, this extensive railway network serves over 7.5 million commuters each day. Yes, that number is huge and to help you understand better, the daily commuters of the local form around 40% of the entire daily commuters of the overall Indian Railways system. Well, that is enough to comprehend the significance of locals in Mumbai. But to put things into perspective, we are going to delve deeper and know what are the other interesting facts that make the local trains of Mumbai so legendary:

A Historical Marvel

The roots of Mumbai's local rail network stretch deep into history. In 1853, the British laid the foundation for the first railway in Asia along a 34-kilometer route right here in Mumbai. Over time, this network has grown exponentially, with tracks spanning over 400 kilometers, crisscrossing the ever-expanding suburbs of the city. This historic railway system has evolved into one of the world's largest and busiest commuter train networks.

Unmatched Scale and Easy Accessibility

Operating a staggering 2,300 train services daily, Mumbai's local trains serve a mammoth 7.5 million daily commuters, and an annual ridership of a staggering 2.64 billion. No wonder the Mumbai Suburban Railway ranks among the busiest commuter rail systems in the world.

Remarkably, this lifeline is accessible to all, with fares as low as 30 INR for journeys exceeding 70 kilometers. The trains rarely come to a halt, operating tirelessly throughout the day, resting briefly for just one and a half hours in the late-night hours. It runs relentlessly, right from the early hours of 4:00 AM until the late hours of 01:00 AM. And in some instances, even stretching into the pre-dawn hours of 02:30 or 03:00.

Despite their immense scale, the railways offer exceptional connectivity, with departures and arrivals spaced no more than 5 minutes apart.

Nourishing Mumbai’s Soul

To most outsiders, Mumbai is defined not by its population, skyscrapers, or malls. However, a true Mumbaikar would know how local trains ensure that all the 9 to 5 workers get their meals on time every day. This is because the famous Dabbawalas of Mumbai rely on these trains to deliver food on time. The Dabbawalas and their food delivery service are an integral part of Mumbai's culture and identity, adding another layer to the story of this incredible city.

A Worthy Experience

Although first-time commuters may find the overall experience of the bustling train a little overwhelming, but once they get used to it, they would love the sense of camaraderie among their fellow travelers. One can find commuters celebrating birthdays, promotions, and festivals while on their way. Moreover, making acquaintances with the familiar faces from the daily journey is something every commuter does. In this way, there are various unsaid traditions that people travelling by the Mumbai's local trains follow.

You may even get to enjoy a unique shopping experience, as vendors peddle fruits, vegetables, snacks, books, trinkets, cosmetics, and even clothing aboard the trains. You might encounter women slicing vegetables or groups singing devotional songs during the ride. Overall, a ride on the Mumbai Suburban Railway is something that you will never forget.

Iconic Stations

The local train stations of Mumbai have emerged as iconic landmarks in their own unique way. Whether it is the a UNESCO World Heritage Site, or the majestic Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the vibrant hubs of Dadar and Andheri, these stations act as the city's gateways, where you will come across something interesting each day.


The Mumbai Suburban Railway holds a special place in the chronicles of Indian rail history. And why not, it was the first suburban rail network to grace the country and hold immense significance. The local train narrates the tale of evolution that Mumbai has witnessed over the years. While it is an integral part of the urban population, it is also a true testament of the culture and traditions of the city.

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