Documentary series exploring the world's busiest railway. From their base at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the team try commuting Mumbai-style.
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Welcome to India.
We are here in the busy, bustling heart of Mumbai,
standing in front of this
extraordinary edifice here,
the Victorian Gothic Chhatrapati Shivaji terminus,
known by the locals as CST.
This is a transport hub on a huge scale.
Trains coming in and out of this station
carry the same amount of people every day
as use the entire UK rail network,
in just one city.
It runs passenger trains 365 days of the year,
21 hours a day, and we'll be going behind that beautiful facade
as we've got access to every area of the station.
And, over the next four programmes, we'll be showing you
just what it takes to keep a place like this running.
Here's what's coming up.
Over the next four nights,
we'll plunge you into the heart of this organised chaos.
Tonight, it's all about rush-hour.
These are the busiest trains on the planet.
We'll see if we've got what it takes to join Mumbai's 5.5 million
I'm literally not on my feet.
I'm lying back on these people.
Across the series, Anita is focused on the railway's
super-sized logistical challenges.
Tonight, she reveals a home-cooked lunch delivery service
that defies belief.
Do you get a dabba delivered at work?
Yes, I get every day from my wife.
Robert explores the feats of extreme engineering
that underpin this station.
Tonight, he discovers how they stop 1,500 daily trains colliding.
This board looks so confusing -
there's so many lines, so many numbers on it.
'I'll be delving into the station's history
'and experiencing life as a railway worker.'
OK, the train's coming.
We've been told to go quicker.
And we're joined by John Sergeant,
who rides the historic railway that brought tea to the English.
Welcome to the world's busiest railway.
Just before we immerse you in the mayhem of Mumbai's rush-hour,
let's get our bearings.
Mumbai is on the west coast of India,
built on a peninsula of land surrounded by the Indian Ocean.
The Chhatrapati Shivaji terminus
is right at the southern tip of the city.
The station was opened in 1887.
It was built by the British.
India, of course, back then, was part of the British Empire.
The reason it was built here - quite simply,
it was because Mumbai was and still is a major port.
If you were coming to India from Britain,
you'd arrive, chances are, right here,
and that's why the first passenger-carrying lines
in India are these ones just over here.
People would continue their journey into the Indian interior by train.
And it's being at the centre of that rail network,
being so connected to the rest of India and the world, that turned
Mumbai into an economic powerhouse, which it remains to this day.
It's a remarkable city.
This is India's city of dreams...
..its financial capital...
..home to billionaires
and a magnet for ambitious Indians hoping to make their fortunes.
Everyone here is trying to get ahead,
which means it's busy, hot and extremely competitive.
A century ago, there were a million people living here.
Now, there's over 17 million.
That's much, much bigger than the population of London,
crammed into a space a third of the size.
All that means that personal space here is really a premium.
Property prices rival those of Manhattan.
But the 55% of the population who can't afford this city's
sky-high prices call these illegal slums home.
There are extremes of wealth and poverty here.
There's also a huge number of people in the middle.
Office workers, teachers, professionals, all of them
rely on this mega city to support themselves and their families.
And there is just one way for most of these middle classes
to get to and from work -
the crowded suburban trains.
More than 2.5 billion journeys are made on them every year.
They are the essential lifelines of Mumbai.
Without them, this pulsating city
and all the wealth it creates would grind to a halt.
And right at the very heart of this railway network is our station, CST.
This is the suburban concourse.
This is the beating heart,
the terminus of the world's busiest commuter rail network.
There are seven platforms here, and, at present, lots of them
have got trains on. Tens of thousands of people
are pouring through this station all the time.
It is ten to ten in the morning.
It's already absolutely sweltering in this station,
but these people don't mind. They've got places to be.
They are flowing out here through the exit there
into the downtown business district of Mumbai.
These are the foot soldiers of Mumbai's economic miracle.
They've got places to be, like commuters all round the world,
and they don't let anything stop them.
We've got a train coming in here. Let's have a look at this.
You'll see overhead electric cables,
so they're not steam powered, as lots of people still think
Indian trains are, but notice here, people are hanging out of the doors.
There aren't any doors on these trains.
Well, actually, there are doors but they never, ever get closed.
And, look at this, as the train starts to slow down,
what's going to happen is people are going to jump off.
Look at those guys. They're jumping off a moving train.
And that allows people to get on and off these trains
very efficiently, very quickly. Quite dangerously, really.
But this is a woman's... a ladies' carriage.
So, here on this network, men and women travel separately.
So here all the ladies coming,
and beyond them a great tidal wave, a torrent of men,
heading down this platform like a surging river in flood.
It's quite intimidating, really.
And the doors... No doors is one way they manage to get
so many people in and out of this station. You don't have to wait
for the doors to beep and open like you do in the UK.
But what also allows people to get in and out of this station is
the fact there are no ticket barriers on the end of this
platform, no bottlenecks, so people just come piling out of these
trains, charging down the platform and straight out through that exit
ready to get on with their day's work.
Now, as you can see, it's quite intimidating being in the heart
of rush-hour. Particularly going the wrong way. I'm getting
jostled here, pushed out the way.
But Robert, Anita and I wanted to experience exactly what
it's like to ride these trains,
to experience the super-dense crush load,
and we did so for ourselves at the height of a Mumbai rush-hour.
It's just before 9am and, across Mumbai's 116 stations,
5.5 million commuters are catching the train to work.
What have we let ourselves in for?
Right, here we go. I'm going in.
Come on, Anita.
You can get the Tube, you can get a Mumbai railway.
We're right to be anxious -
these are the most densely packed trains in the world.
Inside, as many as 14 people can be crammed into
a single square metre, the same size as a phone box.
Conditions are so bad they have a special phrase to describe it.
This is super-dense crush load.
To see just how tough it is for Mumbai's commuters,
we're travelling on different lines. Dan and I are on the Harbour line.
And I'm on the Central line.
Quite nervous about this.
We're all used to commuting in the UK
but this is going to be more like a contact sport.
Just reaching the platforms is a challenge.
I'm swimming against the stream.
Got no choice where I'm going. Just being swept along.
This isn't going to be like any commuting experience we've ever had.
It's not just the crush on the trains that's coming as a shock.
Commuters think nothing of crossing the tracks
to move between platforms.
Although it's illegal,
it's so widespread that the authorities can't do much about it.
Nine people are killed on Mumbai's suburban network every day.
Most are run over on the tracks
but commuters also regularly fall from the trains...
..and these risks are constantly in your face.
I'm worried for your safety! I'm worried for your safety!
Whoa! Now that is aggressive.
Oh, my God, the train's moving.
Right, I'm going to get my train.
How hard can this be?
Here we go. This is the scramble now.
It hasn't stopped yet and they're getting off already.
'Commuters only have 15-35 seconds
'while the train stops to get on or off.'
'It's terrifying to watch!'
'And genuinely physically intimidating.
'Even for someone my size.'
It's a fight. What is happening?
I have never seen this many people get on a train in my life.
Oh, I'm not getting involved in this.
Good luck. Good luck.
Good luck. Good luck.
I don't fancy that.
It looks really frightening and violent and yet everyone's grinning.
They're all grinning away.
That was just a huge bunfight to get on and off that train
and everybody seems fine now.
At this time of day,
each of these trains is carrying close to 5,000 people.
It won't get quieter until after 11 o'clock, so it's now or never.
I think we're going to do this one. Come on.
There we go.
I'm literally not on my feet.
I'm lying back on these people.
I don't think I've been pressed up against this many men since...
ladies' night at the Hammersmith Palais
back in the '90s.
Should be playing Come On, Eileen.
Dan may have muscled his way on but in the ladies' carriage,
I'm hoping it's more about strategy.
What advice would you give me to get on a train?
You have to push it, finally. Push? Yeah. A final push. Yeah.
A push. A drastic push. You're not going to get in the train.
OK, a drastic push otherwise I will die. OK, that sounds terrifying.
Right, I'm getting on the next train.
I'm getting on the next train. Here we go.
OK, I missed it. You have to be like me. Again, I'm in a queue.
I'm in a queue.
I think women at the back are pushing women onto the train.
'Male, female, old, young, there's just one rule - push or be pushed.'
'Time for me and Anita to man up and do this.'
I'm going to get on this one. This is the one.
The next one, I'm getting on.
'If it's not difficult enough already, we've got
'to get our camera operators onboard to record the experience, too.'
Stick with me.
ROBERT LAUGHS Ow!
All right, I'm getting on. Let's go. We're getting on, we're getting on.
Yeah, I'm on.
I'm on. We made it.
I made the train!
I think the one thing I'm not worried about is falling over.
I'm not going to fall over.
The temperature's pushing 40 degrees
and we're travelling at 35km an hour.
It's a full-on assault on the senses.
Fresh air is a precious commodity.
I'm beginning to understand the rules now.
Part of the reason there's such a massive scrum is people are
trying to get on but trying to stand near the door. I can see why.
All the lights suddenly went off,
but the fan is still working and that's the important thing.
I don't need light but the air is a blessing, believe me.
That fan blowing down is fantastic.
Apparently it's not as crowded as it normally is.
That's why I had it easy.
That didn't seem easy. That wasn't easy.
Hard to believe but, since I got on, it's actually thinned out a bit.
I'm not completely crushed.
I have to hold on or I'll fall over so I've got a bit of room now.
This could be pretty gruelling having to do it day in, day out,
your daily commute. This is your start to work.
If I had to do this every single day, it would drive me mad.
Well, that was the super-dense crush load at rush-hour
and it does exactly what it says on the tin.
I feel dense, even more dense than usual, and totally crushed.
I'm actually, I reckon, a couple of millimetres taller
because I've been squeezed like a tube of toothpaste.
It's funny, isn't it, how there is an unspoken sort of culture
and rules to it all? Everyone gets on and shuffles round.
It's an interesting system.
I mean, it's quite terrifying, the initial entrance,
the transition from platform to carriage is quite tense
and noisy and boisterous, I think it would be fair to say.
I saw a few punches thrown.
There's obviously an invisible line and when people cross that,
voices are raised, punches thrown. I mean, it's a full-on experience.
Once you're in and crushed then I was really happy.
It was very funny, everyone was smiling and laughing.
Nothing can happen to you. No, you can't go anywhere,
you're not going to fall over! Absolutely extraordinary.
But the thing I noticed when I got here -
I hadn't looked in the mad panic - was that is my ticket.
Five rupees, that's what it cost me to do that journey. Five pence.
Five pence. And that was a journey of about...over 15 minutes.
Definitely cheap. It's definitely cheap. You get your money's worth.
Not got a lot of room but you get your money's worth.
Of course, the way I guess they make it so cheap is those doors...
Seeing those doors is extraordinary.
People are just hanging on the outside,
so many people heading into the middle of Mumbai.
Absolutely extraordinary. I'd seen that from outside the trains before,
people hanging outside, and you just get used to it.
But when you're actually on the train,
and you see the posts flying past, the danger.
And they're hanging right outside of it.
It's difficult to put it in context cos there's
so many people travelling on so many trains it is just...
it is incredibly dense and complicated
and that's absolutely extraordinary.
I mean, even when they stop at a suburban station,
how short is that stop? 15 seconds sometimes. They hardly pause.
But that's how you keep the speed up.
That's how you get the density on the rail, isn't it?
And when they get into here, the turnaround time in here...
So trains are coming in, while we've been here, zooming in all the time,
zooming out all the time and that turnaround is kept to
the minimum time possible and that, I discovered, is called the headway.
In peak hours, they aim to get a train in
and out of each platform in 3 minutes and 30 seconds.
Keeping this headway period to time is the secret to keeping
everything running on schedule.
With rush-hour easing off, Anita's got the chance to
show us around a train and how the headway operation works.
I'm on platform four.
This is the slow train that's coming into CST,
the end terminus where it will come to a standstill
then it will have an optimum time of 3 minutes and 30 seconds
to get itself ready to go back out. It's 5 to 11.
You can still see it's very busy but rush-hour is over,
cos most people have already got into their offices. But it's hot.
Hello, madam. It's sweaty. There are thousands of people in there.
Another unusual aspect of these trains
are these double discharge platforms, introduced in 1990.
Let's walk through this ladies' carriage,
and you'll see exactly what I'm talking about.
You can get on and off from both sides...
..and that is to deal with the sheer volume.
Everything here is just on a massive scale.
Take the train for example - 12 carriages long.
It can take, or it's supposed to take, 3,500 people.
It can carry up to 5,000 people, all crammed in, give or take a few.
To give you just something to think about - a capacity train
running from Leeds to Manchester at rush-hour can take under 1,000.
So you see the volume, the numbers are enormous here.
Now, it has a first and a second class.
I've been told that the difference is very little.
The first class seats are padded, the second class aren't.
But I've also been assured that first class is no more comfortable
than second class. But the price difference is huge.
Most people are commuters so they buy a monthly pass.
In first class, that will set you back ?7.45, 745 rupees.
In second class, it's only ?2.15.
Now, how on earth are any of these tickets checked?
Cos Dan pointed out there are no barriers.
Well, I've been told that there are ticket checkers roaming,
ten of them in the station today. They do randomly pop up,
sometimes on a bridge, sometimes on the platform,
and a brave conductor will even get on the train sometimes.
And if you're caught without a ticket,
the fine is relatively very steep. It's 200...
minimum 250 rupees, that's ?2.50.
But when you consider that an average daily wage
of a Mumbaikar is 340 rupees,
you can see that you would not want to be stung with that.
Now, how do any of these commuters know where they're going?
There is a board at the back that will tell us.
This train was due to depart at 10:56.
So it's already 1 minute and 39 seconds over.
It's going to Kurla, that's what the C stands for.
It's a slow train and it is a whopping 12 carriages long.
Now, we know that it has separate ladies' compartments, because there
is a picture of a beautiful lady in a sari there painted on the side.
But also there are signs at the top, at the middle
and at the back of the platform.
Now, when I rode in the ladies' carriage,
in the super-dense crush load,
I asked a very smiley, friendly woman
would she give up her seat for me if I were pregnant?
She smiled at me and said,
"No, madam, you could go in the disabled carriage."
So there is a separate disabled carriage.
It says for the disabled and people with cancer.
It is for anybody who's generally very sick.
Now, what is happening at the front of the train?
Well, whatever happens at the front goes on at the back.
So, a driver has jumped off as this train got in, a guard has jumped on
and at the front, a guard has jumped off and a driver has jumped on.
The sign at the front did say CST terminus. It's now saying Kurla.
What we are waiting for is this light to switch on.
It will tell us that this train is ready to depart.
The bell is ringing.
Somebody is waving, so she's expectant,
hoping that it's going to depart.
And off it goes.
That train took 4 minutes and 44 seconds.
A bit over time but not bad.
Now, as passengers, we kind of take it for granted that we're
going to end up exactly where we want to go,
but organising all these trains into all these platforms is
incredibly complicated and relies on maths and some clever automation.
At ground level, the huge scale of this station is hard to comprehend.
But up here on the roof, I've got a bird's-eye view.
This is an incredible sight. Wow.
It's so vast, it's so complicated.
There's just so many tracks, so many trains, constantly coming in and out.
The station complex is spread over nearly 30,000 square metres.
There are 7 suburban platforms
and 11 more that connect it to the rest of India.
You realise how much organisation there's got to be to run these trains
because, you know, it's not like a car where you can
steer around someone else or go in different directions.
A train's on tracks, it hasn't got any choice,
it has to go where it's pointed.
This complex web of tracks creates a massive challenge
for the station's controllers.
To avoid disaster,
they must find a safe route through this maze for every single train.
They run 1,500 services a day here
and in rush-hour, trains are just 40 seconds apart.
The man in charge of this super-sized puzzle
is senior divisional operations manager KN Singh.
Please, Mr Robert. Oh, thank you. Please, please. Wow.
He's taking me to the heart of the network, the control room...
..to explain the systems they use to organise the traffic.
This is an extraordinary room. So what goes on in here?
This is our main TMS room, what we call Train Management System room,
and you are in the nerve centre.
This 12-metre-long LED screen is a live map of the station
and the lines that feed it.
It shows where every train across 53km of greater Mumbai is right now.
This board looks so confusing.
There's so many lines, so many numbers on it,
I can't make head or tail of it. What is this showing us?
You can see, like in platform number four,
the AN17 local is turning and you see the red... The red mark.
..the red mark. So the red section on each line,
that means that's actually a train in the platform at the moment.
Good, good, good. And if the route is free, it will show you green,
so train can move.
TRAIN HORN BLARES
Another train is moving.
Now the red signal is moving ahead.
And now it has covered a fairly large distance.
And now it is almost standing at signal L001.
Thanks to hundreds of kilometres of cables that transmit information
from the track to the control room, the Train Management System,
or TMS board, is able to pinpoint the exact location of every train.
Each section of track has a low electrical current
running through it.
When the track is clear,
the electrical circuit is complete
and a switch called a relay
is held closed.
On the board, the route shows as green.
But when a train enters
that section of track,
the circuit is broken
and the relay switch releases.
The track shows up as red - occupied.
The switches, or relays, that communicate this information
to the control room are housed here.
That's a lot of wire.
I love all the little clicking that is going on. Yeah.
These relays are very instrumental in modern-day signalling.
Relays don't only tell the control room
and station controllers where the trains are.
They also control the movements of those trains
through the operation of points...
So, all these, then, these are the switches or the relays
coming from all over CST? Is that correct?
Yeah, all the relays are basically used to control
the entire system of... All the signals and the points.
..signal rows, points, track.
Have you seen the olden railways where we used to, uh...
The big levers? The big lever frame which we used to pull.
Now those jobs have been taken over by these relays.
Right, so that's what these are doing. That's what these relays are doing.
It's the connection between relays and signals that prevents accidents.
A track relay is linked to the signal
at the start of every section of track.
The signal shows green when the circuit is complete...
..telling the next train it's safe to proceed.
But when a train enters and breaks the circuit,
the signal defaults to red,
warning the following train to stop.
Although circuitry is doing most of the work,
humans are still a crucial part of this system.
At least eight people man this control room 24 hours a day.
The safe running of the trains is in their hands.
And in rush-hour, that's a nerve-racking task.
With 88 trains coming in and out every hour,
there's no space for error.
And most days, there's a problem the computers can't fix.
So, Mr Singh, what happens then if there is, like, a train breakdown
or a signal failure? What do you do then to deal with that?
If there's any failure of something, then my control takes over.
HE SPEAKS ON PHONE
If there is any problem, he will re-route,
he will divert, he will cancel.
See, he's constantly communicating with all the...
Yeah, he's always talking to people. Yeah, he's always talking to people.
So, if, say a train had broken down, he could talk to the engineering
department or whoever was involved to fix it or whatever? Right, right.
I mean, he talks to the engineer and he asks, "What is to be done?
"Just tell me within minutes." Right.
So, he decides everything in a split of a second.
The room is full of quietly concentrating people,
in stark contrast to the rest of the terminus.
It's the perfect alliance of humans and technology,
and meant that those rush-hour trains we caught earlier arrived safely.
And Mr KN Singh is with us here today. Now, Mr Singh,
we've seen how incredibly complicated it is to run this station.
We've seen it from the point of view of passengers and, of course,
from your controllers.
But what is the kind of capacity that you're running the station at?
Well, I mean, the station of CST is running in the peak hours.
It's running at almost 100% capacity.
We do not have a chance to have any extra train at the station.
During lean time, yes, we can do something,
but the demand is only for the peak time.
Everyone wants to travel in the peak time.
That must make your daily task in organising all this and all the
tracks that go right out of Mumbai... That's got to make that quite complicated.
It's a big responsibility to run the train punctually,
safely, I mean, all the time. It's a tough job. It's a tough job.
There's no doubt about it, because this entire city is dependent on you.
Now, would it be fair to say, though,
this is the most challenging station to run in the whole of India?
Oh, yeah, absolutely.
There are a lot of stations running a lot of trains but...
I don't think we can compare CST
with any other stations in India.
Here, the number of trains which we are running,
approximately 1,500 fast trains... Every day?
Oh, every day.
And both long-distance as well as suburban. Yeah.
That, again, makes it a unique station in India.
So, if you are running at peak times at 100% capacity,
if something goes slightly wrong, not a big disaster but, you know,
train breaks down, signals fail, all those sort of things, how on earth
do you cope with that and how long does it take to get back on track?
During peak time, we just pray to God that nothing should go wrong!
Number one, first thing,
because it's the performance at the peak hour that judges...
How the whole... Yes. ..my customer satisfaction.
At the same time, my satisfaction also. Yeah.
Any failure in peak times simply cripples the operation. Right.
Number one, it increases the overcrowding in trains.
Sometimes, if it persists for a long time,
then we have to cancel some trains.
So that's why we want that there should not be any
problem during peak times. Yes, so you really work towards making it all...
We work making sure that our target, that 100% punctuality
should be achieved during peak hours. Right.
I must say, I don't envy your task.
It sounds very stressful, very complicated. And you seem to deal
with it very well, so thank you very much, Mr Singh.
Thank you, Robert. Thank you.
Down here on the concourse, as Robert just heard,
this place is operating at capacity. Well, it certainly feels like it is.
Things would have been very different back in 1887,
when this station was completed.
Back then, there were just four platforms here.
It would have been a far more genteel scene.
Really, the reason this station exists,
the reason the Indian railways exist
is because they were planned and built by the British.
For that, we have to thank a man called Lord Dalhousie,
Governor-General of British India.
He's still commemorated on a bust on the front of this building.
But he wasn't interested in building railways for altruistic reasons,
he was interested in railways as strategic assets, moving soldiers
around the subcontinent fast to deal with any threats to British rule.
Also bringing valuable commodities out of the centre of India,
bringing them into Mumbai, sticking them on boats and getting them
out to trade with the rest of the world.
John Sergeant has been in Darjeeling, where he's
looking at how the history of one of those valuable commodities,
tea, is inextricably linked with the history of railways.
Far from this morning's Mumbai rush hour,
John's journey to Darjeeling takes him close to the border with Nepal.
I'm in the mountains of northern India,
among the green hills of the Himalayas.
When officials from the British Raj came here,
in the 19th century, they made a momentous discovery.
They found this was the perfect place to grow these,
high-quality tea bushes.
The great Indian tea industry was born.
For many, the name Darjeeling means tea.
And the tea industry here is worth ?40 million a year.
All right, tell me what you have to do.
So, what about that one? Is that all right?
No? Not that one.
So it's just the tiny ones? OK.
Is that about that...all right?
So, we'll get going. Right.
I've got to try and do this as quickly, all right?
I'm not very fast. I think I need a bit more practice.
Right. Yeah? All right?
OK, right, so I have to do that, too. Right, ready? OK.
People have been plucking tea here since the 1840s.
But in those early days, it was difficult.
Darjeeling's remote location meant it took nearly a week to take
the tea, ready for export, to the Indian port of Kolkata,
A quicker solution was needed.
And in 1881, it arrived,
in the shape of the Darjeeling Hill Railway.
It's one of only two remaining steam railways in India.
These antique locomotives were built in Britain
and shipped here specially for this line.
This is called the "toy train", but when it was built,
it was very far from being a toy.
It was a magnificent piece of engineering.
The line is 82km long
and rises more than 2,000 metres.
This is high, high up in the mountains.
For the engineers who built it, the only way to overcome the constant
twists and turns and steep gradient was to use a narrow two foot gauge.
This train made this whole area economically viable.
Without this train, you couldn't have had all the tea plantations
and you wouldn't have, in fact, known about Darjeeling.
Darjeeling tea? Why? Because of this train.
The opening of this line meant that the tea could be
moved from plantation to port in less than 24 hours.
And that was a big commercial advance.
As exports grew, demand increased,
and the plantations expanded.
Within three years, almost a third of India's tea exports
were carried by trains down these mountains.
The high-grade leaves produced the champagne of teas.
It was a precious cargo that brought much-needed wealth,
and for nearly 100 years, the railway thrived.
But the good times couldn't last.
It became cheaper to transport the tea on road trucks.
By the 1960s,
the trains stopped carrying tea altogether.
The relics of those glory days are tucked away in this railway workshop.
These are some of the old freight wagons,
still kept in this place, for some reason.
And that's terrific, isn't it? You can just imagine it.
This was built in 1926,
and so, at that time...
..something like 5,000 tonnes of tea
would be produced every year and carried in these wagons.
Memories of that time are fading.
But they're easily revived - over a cup of tea, obviously.
For these distinguished citizens,
the age of steam is not deep in the past.
How old are you?
90. 90? 90. Yes, right.
76. 94. 94.
What do you remember about the old days
when the tea trains would come in?
Nowadays, there are just three daily services.
Each morning, two of the Glasgow-built locos
are fired into life,
ready to make the round trip between Darjeeling and Ghoom.
Tourists have replaced the tea.
Thousands visit here each year,
keen to experience the romance of steam travel
and to see India's part in all that.
Time to hop aboard.
So, how long have we got before the train leaves?
Ah, 1:20, yes. 1:20, right. Yeah, yeah.
So... Just now, it's time. Well... Yeah!
Excuse me. Thank you.
Ha-ha! That was a close one.
For some of us, it's also an excuse to revisit our youth.
I'm Jill, by the way. Oh, are you? Jill. Jill what? Jill Hemmings.
Jill Hemmings. Hi, there.
What do you think about this? Oh, it's wonderful, yes.
Yes, how often do you get a train running on the high street?
And there's that lovely...
And does that remind you of when you were a child, seeing steam engines?
Yes, yes. I like the noise. And the smell of it, isn't it?
Yes, and actually, there's the smut coming in through the window.
Oh, yes. When I was a child, we were told not to look out the windows.
Absolutely. But did you? Well, yes. Yes, so did I!
Along with my fellow passengers,
I've really enjoyed steaming into the past.
This is how we should travel.
In Mumbai, it's mid-morning,
and the commuters are being replaced by a new army of workers
who use these trains to feed the city.
It's just gone 11 o'clock
and food and the train
have a very unique and vital connection here in Mumbai.
This is platform seven at CST
and these fellows are known as the "dabbawalas".
"Dabba" means box, or in this context, lunchbox,
and "wala" means man,
so they're the lunchbox men. The system is really simple.
Basically, you trot off to work, somebody at home cooks your lunch,
and they will hand-deliver it to your office every day.
As we've seen, you've little chance of struggling onto a rush-hour
train with your lunch in a bag, so this is an extraordinary solution.
Someone at home hands your lunch to a dabbawala,
who then does a relay race with his colleagues across the city,
to get it to your desk.
Hundreds of thousands of ordinary families across Mumbai use
this service every day.
Here's how it works for one couple.
Hi, I'm Jignesh Ganatra. I live in the northern side of Bombay.
I work for a bank in south Mumbai.
I'm Dr Dipti Ginatra.
I'm a homoeopath by profession.
I stay with my mother-in-law, my husband,
SHE SPEAKS OWN LANGUAGE
And I have a maid. She helps me cook food,
and also take care of my kid and my mother-in-law.
Every morning, I cook food for my husband.
I put different things in different compartments.
It's okra, the ladyfinger...
The dal, rice and chapattis.
So the dabbawala is a person who takes lunch
in a box from home to the office area,
the place where a person works.
That's how he enjoys home-made food sitting in his office.
Using the services of dabbawala is important
because, in the morning when we commute by train,
it's pretty crowded
and it becomes really difficult to carry the dabba with us.
That's why we are using the service of the dabbawala.
In the afternoon, with lunch,
he has salad, he has achar,
he has buttermilk.
Achar is a pickle.
When the dabbawala actually comes at ten,
they are so punctual that you can actually match your watch
with the time, they are so good at it.
My son, he hears the bell, and he is the one who shouts and yells,
"I'll be the one who gives the dabba",
so he goes, wherever he is in the house,
he just rushes to that place, takes the dabba in this particular way.
You give them the dabba and they are off in no time.
If you see the way the dabbawalas walk,
it's the amount of dabbas they carry every day.
It is just so mind-blowing... How do they manage the whole thing?
It's just unimaginable.
Dabbawalas have quite a harrowing time.
Come rain, come sun, whatever be the climate conditions,
they always ensure the dabbas reach the office on time.
They are very dedicated towards their task.
THEY SHOUT OVER THE CROWD
I think you can't think of dabbawalas without the trains.
It is not going to be possible, because the way the train schedules
are, they are generally, again, spot on time,
so the entire routine which they have
cannot be fulfilled without the trains being around.
The way the dabbawalas function, it's like 99.99% accuracy.
It never happens that a single dabba reaches a wrong hand.
My wife is a fabulous cook.
And more importantly, the food is cooked with love and affection,
so that makes the taste even more better.
Incredible, isn't it?
Well, I'm joined by Dr Pawan Agrawal,
who has studied the dabbawala, written a PhD all about them
and now helps educate their children.
So, Dr Agrawal, you're the perfect person to tell me
more about this fascinating system.
How many dabbawalas are there in Mumbai?
Total 5,000 dabbawalas are there.
They're delivering 200,000 tiffins every day.
That must weigh an absolute tonne. What's the weight of all of that?
How much are they carrying each?
They carry approximately 60-65kg weight,
because each person is carrying approximately 40 tiffins.
40 tiffins with food, with basket comes 60-65kg weight.
5,000 dabbawalas delivering 200,000, about 65kg on their backs.
Very strong men. How exactly does it work?
It starts from 50-60km away.
From my front door. Yes. I've cooked the meal.
You cooked the meal. Yes.
One person will come to collect from your front door.
He will bring to the nearest station.
He will hand it over in relay - second person.
That second person will drop at the third station,
and he will deliver to the last, fourth person.
In the case of Jignesh and Dipti Ganatra,
one dabbawala picks it up from their house by bike,
transfers it to another at Mulund Station,
and the final leg of its journey from CST
is made by a third dabbawala and a hand cart.
To make sure every lunch gets to the right person,
they use a special coding system.
I can see you've got some letters on this tiffin box...
It's a coding system. Right.
This is the residential area of the customer, Vile Parle.
The man who collects the tiffin from home.
This is the destination station.
Nariman Point, the business district.
This is the person who will pick it up from there,
he will deliver to the Express Tower building on the 12th floor.
That's brilliant. So it's like a postcode.
You've got the place where it's being picked up from,
that's Vile Parle, which is a suburb of Mumbai.
This is the chap that picks it up, his unique code.
This is the place it's being delivered to, Nariman Point,
the business district, and this is the chap
that will deliver it to him. They never do any mistakes.
It's 1 in 60 million. I would say more perfect than that.
Who's cooking the dabbas now?
Because a lot of women are going to work here, aren't they?
The food is cooked by a customer's wife, mother or sister.
But what if they go to work?
Cos the nuclear family is breaking up here
just like it is in any other developing nation.
It's true. Nowadays there is nuclear families.
But there are many families where a cook person is there,
maybe mother, sister, wife.
In those families, where there is nobody there to cook,
they ask to collect from a hotel or someplace.
Right, so they're getting it delivered
from a hotel or restaurants.
Do you get a dabba delivered at work?
Yes, I get it every day from my wife, because she cook very good.
You're a good husband for saying that. You have to say that.
Without the trains, would the dabbawala exist?
Would their system run without the train network?
No, it's impossible. Without local trains, they can't deliver.
If I wanted to use this service, how much would it cost me a month?
For one person each week, ?6 per month.
Is that quite reasonable, is that very affordable?
Yeah, very reasonable.
Even for dabbawalas, it's very reasonable.
They earn ?150 per month.
Mumbai is like any other big city in India,
there's lots of fast food joints, coffee shops opening up,
particularly in these business districts.
Will people stop getting home delivery food and start eating out?
I don't think they will stop. The reason behind this?
It is very important to take care of health.
Because of health, many people want home-cooked food.
Number two, outside, it's costly to eat.
So despite fast foods are available,
many people are only getting home-cooked services.
I feel it is continuing.
It's so ingrained in the culture here, isn't it?
People are very used to having home-cooked food in their office.
Yes, it's a culture, so they want to use it. I don't think it'll stop.
Dr Agarwal, thank you very much. Thank you so much.
Well, the system has been in place here since 1890,
running every single day.
The dabbawalas are almost as old as the station itself.
For more than 120 years,
this astonishing building has been a city icon.
Designed by British architect Frederick William Stevens,
the station was the earliest grand railway terminus built in India.
The great Indian Peninsula Railway, India's first railway company,
commissioned it as their headquarters.
Today, the original site has ballooned
to become a city in itself, with its own police force,
dormitories, court and kitchen.
3,500 people work here.
But it's the exterior that's attention-grabbing.
It was inspired by the designs of traditional Indian palaces
and European railway stations.
It's a style that's unique to Mumbai.
All right, everyone, follow me in.
We're now going to be entering
the Grand Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Railway Station.
Guide Viraat Kasliwal was brought up in Mumbai.
Today he shares his passion for the city
by taking tourists on walking tours.
Work started in 1878. It took ten years to complete
at a cost of ?260,000.
It was the most expensive building to have been
executed in Asia at that time.
Viraat knows all there is to know about this building.
But, like most Mumbaikars,
he's never set foot in the oldest part of it.
It's off limits to everyone,
except railway officials and invited guests.
Oh, my goodness me!
Anita's got special permission for a private tour.
So what do you think?
I think it's awe-inspiring.
It's absolutely fantastic to be in here under the main dome.
It feels like we've entered into a church.
It doesn't feel like a government office block.
It doesn't feel like a railway station.
It doesn't even feel like we're in India right now.
It feels like we're somewhere completely different.
Somewhere in Europe. Somewhere in the middle of Europe.
It's simply beautiful.
The decoration and beauty in here is astonishing.
Wow. Oh, my goodness.
I don't know what to look at first.
Every available surface is covered with flowers,
animals and railway motifs.
You've got the Statue of Progress up there and the gargoyles
and the beautiful sculpture work.
They're my favourites, the crocodiles.
Students from Mumbai's architectural college carved
the decoration from Indian sandstone and limestone.
It feels even more like a church up here.
It was actually designed in a very grand and imperialistic manner.
It was meant to stamp the authority of the British on the locals.
It really does that. It does. It's a very grand structure.
Imagine a time when there wasn't any development,
there was just raw mud roads.
When the station was completed,
there were no cars or buses on the roads,
just ox carts and pedestrians.
This building was an imposing statement for the one million people
who lived in Mumbai then,
just as it is today for its 17 million inhabitants.
Does the average Indian care about this building?
Do people driving past look up at it?
Mumbai is a very fast city
and a lot of people don't have a lot of time for anything other
than their work, but this is the one building that always gets people
to look up and take notice. It's a symbol for what's most important.
The railways are the most important thing to not just the country
but even the city and the functioning of the city.
And what a privilege to be allowed access up here. Absolutely.
Nobody gets to come up here!
Today the tickets hall is the only are of the historic building
the public can enter.
Local historian Shradda is showing me some overlooked features
in the hustle and bustle of the modern station.
I know it's a room full of people,
but the first thing I had to do was look up.
Yeah, the first thing you notice up here
is these beautifully painted stars.
That's why this chamber is also called Star Chamber.
The monogram there, it's quite interesting.
It's a coat of arms with an elephant, a locomotive,
St George's cross.
You can see the old mode of transport and the modern mode.
But this is the ticket hall, so this is the only bit of CST that
members of the public can come into, is that right?
Originally, when Frederick William Stevens,
the architect of the building, designed this particular hall,
he designed it as a booking office and a waiting room.
This today remains the only interface of this structure
with the public.
But now it's a really different place.
Now lots of people are buying tickets here to travel
locally around Mumbai. Yeah.
Today's commuters seem oblivious to the heritage around them,
but there's a piece of railway history hidden in the station
that predates the building and all the present-day structure.
Somehow we've managed to find the quietest bit of the station.
Where are you taking me?
To the end of this platform to show you
the place from where the first ever train in India ran,
way back in 1853.
Where was it going?
It was going to Thane, which was 21 miles from the station.
The station was called Bori Bunder at that time.
What does Bori Bunder mean?
Bori means sacks of cotton, and Bunder means port.
This area was called Bori Bunder
because of its vicinity with the port of Bombay.
Cotton was king in 19th century India, the country's biggest export.
And the original Bori Bunder station was perfectly positioned
to get cotton to the port.
So where would this platform have been?
Somewhere just before that bridge.
Just there? Just there, yes.
There's nothing to signify that it was here, there's no blue plaque.
I'm a little bit disappointed.
You're in Mumbai, so here change is the only constant.
The railways have been continuously running for the last 160 years,
so there have been a lot of changes.
There's no place for sentiment in this crowded station.
Tracks and signals have jostled history out of the way.
But what happened here laid the foundation
for India's modern rail network.
Today that system transports more passengers than any other on Earth.
This place is a palace to rail, isn't it?
It absolutely is, and intentionally so.
The British set out to make a real statement here.
They were saying, "You've seen those big, grand 19th century stations
"in Europe, well, this is going to cast all that in the shade."
You can read that building, there's a statue of progress on the top.
She's flanked by the statue of commerce and agriculture.
This building is saying that we're going to use this cutting-edge
new technology, the railways, to link India up, exploit this vast,
natural treasure house, and create an economic superpower.
Put it on the map and, of course, to a large extent,
that is what happened.
I think it's true that the railways have helped to make Mumbai
and India a major player in the global economy today.
Yeah, you're absolutely right.
It really is the central part of the city's transport hub.
But when you first look at it, what struck me is,
like the rest of India, it's completely insane - people hanging
off trains, millions of people, who knows where they're going -
but then you look closely
and you see that there is structure, it's pretty slick and it's precise.
But then it would have to be.
There is no way you could run an organisation this big
and this complex without some kind of ironclad system.
But then I don't think I could cope with that commute, not every day.
These Mumbaikars, they're a tough crowd, aren't they? They really are.
We have only just scratched the surface of this station.
Here's what's coming up next time.
Today, we immersed you in the madness
and chaos of a Mumbai rush hour.
Tomorrow, we'll transport you long-distance across India.
Anita escapes the rush-hour crowds
to ride one of the most popular trains,
but finds conditions onboard just as challenging.
It's every man and woman for themselves.
Squeeze in where you can.
I visit the extraordinary super-sized facility
meeting the needs of long-distance passengers.
This is a big pile of dirty laundry. How much comes in here every day?
Every day, around 25,000 bed sheets. 25,000? 25,000.
Jewellery, motorbikes and furniture,
Robert discovers what else travels alongside passengers.
I'm very confident that in these packages
there is a large amount of fish.
That is basically information that is going in through my nose.
And from fish to fine dining.
We take a tour of India's poshest train.
Who spends the most money?
All that coming up tomorrow.
Thanks for joining us here in Mumbai.
See you next time, but for now, goodbye. Bye. Bye.
# Here am I
# Sitting in a tin can... #
Dan Snow, Anita Rani, Robert Llewellyn and John Sergeant are in India, exploring the world's busiest railway. From their base at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai they reveal the science, systems and staff responsible for keeping this supersized transport system running to schedule.
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 crushed into a square metre, these trains are more than twice as crammed 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 reveals the historical connection between tea and trains. And our cameras are on board with the astonishing dabba wallahs - a crack team of couriers who deliver 200,000 home-cooked lunches to offices all over Mumbai.