Crammed together in tight folds of humanity, the suburban rail passengers of Mumbai, India, experience the most densely crowded trains in the world (Basu & Hunt, 2012). Whilst the immediate physical descriptors of crowdedness in Mumbai are well understood (Hirsch, 2016), there is little knowledge of the effect this has on the multitude of passengers. This is an important omission, as the effects of crowding on passengers impact their attitudes, travel behavior, and travel decisions. This paper therefore seeks to discern the physical, emotional, and behavioural effects of rail passenger crowding in Mumbai, India. To achieve this, a qualitative methodology, including 49 face-to-face interviews and 48 hours of ethnographic and autoethnographic observations in Mumbai were conducted. Mumbai is an ideal place to study these effects as it has high-density crowding, the likes of which are not experienced elsewhere. Additionally, there is a limited understanding of the effect of crowding on passengers in non-Western societies. With increasing rail ridership worldwide, the experiences of Mumbai’s passengers within high densities may align with the future experiences of passengers in other Western and non-Western countries. For academics and service providers, understanding the specifics of the crowd, such as the density, passenger perceptions, and culture is important. With that knowledge, strategies to improve the experience of crowding would be more effective.


Rail Passengers, Crowding, Effects, Behaviour, Emotion, Transportation

Author Bio(s)

Lily Hirsch, PhD, is a social researcher with a focus on transport behavior and safety. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: l.hirsch@cqu.edu.au.

Kirrilly Thompson, PhD, is a trained anthropologist and uses ethnographic methods to research the cultural dimensions of risk-perception and safety. She has particular interests in human-animal interactions, high risk interspecies activities, and equestrianism.

Danielle Every, PhD, is a social psychologist specialising in research on social inclusion and ethnicity, emergency management, and transport.


This work was supported by the CRC for Rail Innovation (established and supported under the Australian Government's Cooperative Research Centres program); Project No. R2.104. “A socio-economic study of platform and carriage crowding in the Australian metropolitan railway industry.” See http://www.railcrc.net.au/project/project/crowding

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





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