Suburban train services will resume soon with a 10-15 per cent strength carrying 50 per cent of the existing passengers. After a few days, the trains would be increased to 25 per cent of its strength.
A detailed time table listing the routes and stations will be finalised at a meeting at 4.30 pm on 5 November in Nabanna following which local trains would begin. Railway is working out a system for issuing e-tickets for local train passengers akin to the metro rail.
A decision in this regard was taken at a high-level meeting between senior officials of the state government and Eastern and South Eastern Railway. Prior to the pandemic, each train carried 1,200 passengers which now will be brought down to 600. In a normal working day Eastern Railway used to run 915 trains in Sealdah section and 460 in Howrah section.
“All pros and cons must be weighed and all possible scenarios must be considered before a final decision is taken. It is a difficult choice -mobility and economy versus health concerns-and the decision should be based on administrative and health considerations,” said state chief secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay at a Press Conference in Nabanna after the meeting.
Mr Bandopadhyay said that resumption of services will impact public health but we have decided to start services in view of distress of the commuter.
Like Mumbai, local trains connecting suburban areas, towns, and villages to Kolkata, are known as a lifeline in the southern part of Bengal. However unlike Mumbai where commuter engaged in emergency services were given priority while boarding the trains, no such segregation would be done in Kolkata.
People from all sections, routes and segments of the population would be given equal opportunity for boarding the trains, said Mr Bandopadhyay. The Railway officials have already taken down a list of stations and the approximate number of passengers boarding from each station.
Discussions would now be held to decide on the number of galloping trains and which stations the trains would stop, said an official adding that transport and dispersal facilities would also be planned.
The modalities of running trains including maintenance of Covid protocols and crowd management would be finalised in two to three days. Again, the entry and exit at stations would be closely monitored.
Mr Bandopadhyay said that while running the local trains the health and safety of the commuter have to be kept in mind along with ensuring the Covid protocols. Thus, masks, sanitisers, physical distancing and thermal screening are mandatory.
“Many states have not started train services while some have started it in a sector-wise manner. We have to see how to go about,” said Mr Bandopadhyay.
Senior official of Eastern Railway said they were working closely with the state government and a thorough planning is needed wherein all protocols have to be put in place. Echoing the same, a senior official of the South Eastern Railway assured people that services would be shortly started.
According to sources, around 35 lakh commuter travel daily from suburban areas to Kolkata. Earlier during the day, the ER wrote a letter to the state government stating that it is prepared to operate suburban trains. This came in response to the state government’s letter written to the zonal railway, last Saturday seeking discussions on operating a few pairs of suburban trains in the morning and afternoon hours for the general commuter maintaining Covid protocols.
According to sources in the railway, the ER authorities underlined that prohibiting general commuter in staff special trains was only to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The ER authorities, in their letter, also requested the presence of the state police officials in the meeting.