Even as the Opposition in Bihar tries to make the plight of migrant workers an election issue, train passenger data shows high occupancy rates on routes connecting the state with destinations that rely heavily on migrant labour. The demand has been such that most of the ‘clone’ trains that the Railways has been running to clear the rush on crowded routes have an occupancy of 104-134 per cent, as per latest data reviewed by The Indian Express.
“It was initially thought that migrants who have gone back to their villages would probably stay put till Chhath. But data show that is not the case. They are going back to their jobs,” said a senior Railway Ministry official.
Out of the 40 clone trains the Railways is running so far, around 24 are on these routes. In addition to this, the festive special services post November 15 from Bihar are also booked out.
“Forty special trains have been introduced as clones of trains with long wait lists. The average occupancy of these trains in the past seven days is around 85 per cent,” said a Railway spokesman.
The concept of clone trains was approved late last month, replicating services that have a long waiting list. Since then, according to Railways officials, originating stations in Bihar, such as Danapur, Patna, Muzaffarpur, Katihar, Rajgir, Jaynagar, Chhapra, Darbhanga and Saharsa, are among those throwing up the highest demand, to destinations like Surat, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bengaluru and Secundrabad. Clone trains from Bihar to these destinations are running with 104-134 per cent occupancy, as per latest data reviewed by The Indian Express. On the same routes, they are returning with much lower occupancy.
The approximately 16 other clone trains are on routes between Delhi and Varanasi, Goa, Lucknow and Bengaluru. Notably absent from the list so far are clones between Gorakhpur and Mumbai and Pune — a route that saw a huge number of Shramik Specials bringing in stranded migrants during the lockdown. Even from Bihar, the list has no train connecting Maharashtra so far.
The clone trains are mostly made of 12 air-conditioned three-tier and four non-AC sleeper coaches. By design, they are faster than the regular trains they are cloning and run with fewer stops. In fact, they run ahead of the train they clone. These are mostly Humsafar Express rakes, premium in nature with a marginally higher ticket cost. Bookings can be made 10 days in advance.
Post the lockdown, Railways has been resuming services in a calibrated manner. As of now, 668 trains have returned to tracks on routes with traditionally heavy demand. Additionally, 412 festival special trains have been introduced to run for a few days around Diwali and Chhath.
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