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Mumbai Railway

Programme Run: 4 x 60 minutes
Production: BBC
First Transmitted: 2015 HD available

Dan Snow, Anita Rani, Robert Llewellyn and John Sergeant are in India, exploring the world’s busiest railway at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai, revealing the science and systems behind this supersized transport operation.​

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Episode 1
In this opening episode Dan, Anita and Robert try commuting Mumbai-style, tackling “super dense crush load” on the world’s busiest commuter trains.  With as many as 14 people packed into a square metre, these trains are more than twice as packed as the most crowded UK trains. Passengers hang from the sides of trains and cross the tracks, so they’re in for quite a ride.

John Sergeant heads to Darjeeling’s steam powered hill railway and reminisces about a more romantic age of rail travel. He also reveals the historical connection between tea and trains and the value this rail line had to exporters of the UK’s favourite drink.

Robert heads up into mission control for the station - the control room – to explain how the Train Management System programmes safe routes for all 1500 daily trains through the station’s complex mesh of tracks.

India’s very first passenger train ran from this site in 1853, and Anita locates this piece of railway history.And our cameras are on board with the astonishing dabba wallahs – a crack team of delivery men who deliver 200,000 home cooked lunches to offices all over Mumbai. With an error rate of 1 in 16 million, their system is rated as one of the most efficient in the world.

Episode 2
This time, they examine the role the station plays in long distance travel across India. The country’s rail passengers travel an astonishing 3 million km every day – that’s the distance to the moon and back, 4 times.

Anita joins those passengers on a long distance sleeper across India, to discover who’s travelling, what they pay for their tickets and what conditions are like on board. She discovers how crucial these services are for India’s 400 million economic migrants who commute across the country to find work.

The station team have just 6 hours to service trains after every journey.  With trains measuring more than half a kilometre in length this is a gargantuan task. Robert joins the team to watch this turnaround in action

Dan gets his hands dirty with the behind the scenes support teams who process more than 25,000 dirty sheets a day and ensure that everyone on board is fed and watered.

We discover the value of freight to India’s railways. It’s worth £12 billion a year and allows the government to subsidise passenger fares. Coal, cement and heavy items travel on dedicated freight trains, but everything from fish, to motorbikes to animals travels alongside passengers on standard long distance trains.

We also go on board one of India’s poshest tourist trains, where you can travel like a maharaja, at a cost of £600 per night. 

Episode 3
This time they go behind the scenes to reveal the hidden areas of the station unseen by commuters.Robert visits a city sized repair facility where, every 18 months, train carriages are given their version of an MOT.

He tries his hand at repairing seats and discovers that carriages are still painted by hand.Our cameras are on board with one of the train drivers – known as motormen – and are given privileged access to the lounge where prepare to go on shift. It’s a prestigious job in India with a salary around 7 times the national average. It takes around 12 years of training to qualify as a passenger train driver.

Anita heads onto the roads of Mumbai to see if commuting by road is any easier than by rail. But with an average speed of just 9 kmph she discovers that progress is slow and hazardous by car.

John Sergeant visits two rural stations that still operate historical systems for train control and discovers how a silver ball can keep passengers safe.

We’re in the CST station control room when a train with a suspected fire on board threatens to bring evening rush hour to a halt. We witness how the control team divert and manipulate the traffic to keep delays to a minimum.

We also reveal the secret station workers who only come out at night, including the so-called “muck pickers” responsible for keeping the tracks free of rubbish.

Episode 4
In this final episode, they consider the challenges faced by this station and ask what the future holds.9 people a day die on Mumbai’s railway lines. Anita tackles the railway’s head of safety on the measures they’re taking to reduce this fatality rate.  She also heads out with the “gangmen” – teams of repair workers responsible for re-laying the track.

Dan meets two eye witnesses to 2008’s terror attacks that claimed the lives of 52 people at the station and considers the changes made at the station since those events. He also heads out to Mumbai’s newly built Metro to experience what the future could hold for Mumbai’s 5.5 million rail commuters. This new line cost close to half a billion pounds to build and connects Mumbai’s eastern and western suburbs.John Sergeant is in the Western Ghats, one of India’s biggest mountain ranges, revealing the heavy human cost of building the line connecting Mumbai to the south of India.

We hear from the station’s managers about their plans for the future and how they hope to cope with a 50% increase in passenger numbers. Two of Mumbai’s commuters share their experiences and tell us how crucial the railway is to this city.

Robert fulfils a childhood dream and becomes a train driver for a day and Anita tries her hand at station announcing.  


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