Railways on track to step up services with new safety norms

Mamuni Das New Delhi | Updated on July 08, 2020 Published on July 08, 2020

Shramik trains to ferry migrant workers were started on May 1   -  PTI

Resumption of normal services still a long way off

The Railways is weighing the possibility of restarting train services after mid-August with new standard operating procedures (SOP), it is learnt.

However, given the stringent SOPs of various States, it is almost impossible to run trains at pre-Covid-19 levels, say multiple sources. So a normal resumption of train services seems unlikely in August. One of the plans being considered is to run 160 trains or 80 pairs of trains with strict SOPs. The Railways now runs 230 special trains — a mix of AC and non-AC trains — for which passengers can book tickets on the IRCTC website. Officially, the Railways has said it will not operate regular trains till August 12.

West Bengal, Jharkhand, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have strict SOPs with varying degrees of restrictions on movement, said officials. Some States even have “curfews” in place.

“One of the plans being considered is to increase the frequency of services connecting metro cities. Whether migrant workers will return to metro cities (in the West and North) or not will be known over time,” said an official source.

The Railways, Over the last 150 years, has never stopped running all its passenger trains until March 24, when the national lockdown was announced.

From May 1, Shramik special trains started running to transport stranded migrant workers. From May 12, the Railways started operating 15 pairs of AC trains connecting State capitals (30 trains on Rajdhani Express routes). This was increased to 100 pairs of mail and express trains from June 1, taking the total to 230 trains.

Frequency reduced

While running these trains, the Railways has also been reducing their frequency where Covid cases have been rising.

On July 6, the Railways reduced the frequency of trains connecting Howrah and New Delhi (via Patna and Dhanbad); Howrah and Ahmedabad; and Howrah and Mumbai. These trains which were plying three-four times a week, will now run once a week from next week, according to the Railways. This followed the West Bengal Government’s request to reduce the number of trains following a surge in pandemic cases there.

The Railways has been cautious in operating trains as it has been coordinating with States on the spread of Covid-19. Between June 26 and 30, several packed trains operated with over 2,000 passengers, according to Railways data. By June-end, restrictions on the number of people who could travel per train had been relaxed.

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Published on July 08, 2020
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