Local train services, halted for the general public since March in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, is likely to resume in West Bengal in a graded manner this month. Following a meeting with state officials, Railway authorities hinted on resuming local train services in Bengal by allowing 50 per cent of passenger strength, PTI reported.
Similar to Mumbai, suburban trains in West Bengal act as a crucial link between the districts and Kolkata, with the suspension of services causing hardships to office-goers and businessmen who have had to depend on overcrowded buses to reach the state capital. Both Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, which have so far allowed only certain categories of people to avail local trains, are also likely to see normal services resume in November following the Centre’s nod.
Here is a status check of suburban train services in different states:
West Bengal suburban train services
Following protests by commuters at Howrah, one of the major stations in Kolkata, the Mamata Banerjee government last week wrote to the Railways, seeking discussions about operating a few pairs of suburban trains daily in the morning and in the afternoon hours while following Covid-19 regulations.
Following a meeting on Monday, Railways officials have indicated that local train services in West Bengal would resume in November with 50 per cent of passenger strength. Initially, they were targeting to resume the operations with 10-20 per cent of the normal services.
So far, the Bengal government has been running nearly 20 trains daily from Howrah and Sealdah for railways staff. While initially healthcare workers were also allowed, the government later revoked permission after several people were caught misusing medical papers to travel on local trains, an Eastern Railways official told indianexpress.com.
“In the initial months of April, May and June, local trains were being run for railways and medical staff. However, several people were found to be misusing medical papers to travel on trains, resulting in crowding and social distancing was not being maintained. So, only railways staff are being allowed now,” the official told indianexpress.com.
On when local train services will resume in Bengal, she said, “Normally, the state government gives an NOC on running local trains after accessing the law and order situation following which the Railways gives its nod. Much will depend on the outcome of today’s meeting.”
The official also said a standard operating procedure (SOP) was being worked out and initially the number of passengers availing local trains would be capped. “Those who will be allowed may be asked to show their workplace destination or some identity proof. A monthly system for daily commuters is also being mooted otherwise it will be difficult to control as Bengal has a number of roadside stations,” the official said.
Last week, there was a commotion at Howrah station after Railway police chased away some commuters as they tried to break open the locked gate of the Howrah-Burdwan Staff Special Train at the station. Monday too saw protests by residents at Sreerampur and Rishra demanding resumption of services.
Maharashtra suburban train services
The Uddhav Thackeray government plans to allow the general public to use Mumbai suburban train system during non-peak hours from early November and has communicated its decision to the Railways. A meeting is likely to be held with Railways officials early next week.
According to the proposal, any person holding a valid ticket or pass will be allowed to board local trains till 7.30 am, then between 11 am to 4.30 pm and after 8 pm till the end of the services.
The development comes on the heels of the government allowing women to travel in local trains from October 18 between 11 am and 3 pm and from 7 pm till the end of services. Besides women, those involved in essential services and dabbawalas have been allowed to travel by local trains.
Last week, the Railways announced that the Central Railway (CR) and the Western Railway (WR) will run an additional 753 suburban services in Mumbai, increasing the total services that operate on the suburban lines from 2,020 to 2,773. Suburban train services had resumed partially from June 15, but only those deemed to be essential service providers were allowed to board these trains after being allotted a special pass.
Central Govt.’s approval is awaited for Operation of Chennai Suburban EMU train services for common public – Tamil Nadu Govt has permitted Chennai Suburban train operations subject to Central government decision and in accordance with guidelines and instructions pic.twitter.com/H2dERiogLU
— Southern Railway (@GMSRailway) October 31, 2020
Tamil Nadu suburban train services
As part of its Unlock 6.0 guidelines, the Tamil Nadu government has allowed suburban trains to resume in November subject to “Central government decision and in accordance with guidelines and instructions”. According to reports, services are expected to resume by the third week of November.
This comes on the backdrop of residents demanding that the services, which are already in operation for essential service providers and government staff, be resumed, at least during the peak hours. Currently, 11 rakes are being run on both directions between Arakkonam and Chennai. Southern Railways has already resumed operations of a number of inter-state and intra-state trains in the state.
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