Railways have decided to operate around 95 per cent trains after passengers crowded local trains on Thursday morning during peak office hours to check the risk of Covid infection.
This was decided at a meeting between senior state bureaucrats and officials of Eastern and South Eastern Railways at Bhawani Bhawan this afternoon.
After local trains resumed on Wednesday, platforms and compartments teemed without physical distance and Covid protocols flouted. In view of the seriousness of the situation, chief minister Mamata Banerjee urged Railways yesterday to run more trains and increase the frequency so that trains to thin crowding and enable physical distance. Soon, a meeting was called to address the problem today.
“Miss Banerjee had made an open appeal to the Railways from Nabanna yesterday as checking Covid contamination was the need of the hour. At the meeting today, both Eastern and South Eastern Railways have decided to augment their services at the peak office hours. The state government will continue to provide them the lateral support,” said state chief secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay after the meeting.
“According to what we witnessed on 11 November, the maximum crowd is during the peak office hours and so we have decided to increase our services. We will try to run 95 per cent of trains that were run during pre-Covid period in peak morning and evening hours,” said a senior official of Eastern Railway.
“In the South Eastern Railways we will augment the services as and when necessary to ensure that social distancing is maintained,” said a senior official.
In view of the huge passenger count, Railways had to run additional trains on the first day of service on Wednesday. Initially, Eastern Railways had planned to run 46 per cent and started with 202 trains in the Howrah section but an additional 103 suburban trains were run to maintain social distance after witnessing the huge passenger turnout.
In the last two days 10 lakh commuters took the trains in Howrah and Sealdah sections compared to 30 lakh who travelled per day during pre-Covid period. Nearly 75 per cent trains were run during the peak hours since Wednesday. On an average, 1,200 passengers travelled per train while the figure is 2,200 usually though the number of passengers travelling in one train is more than its sitting capacity.
Passengers crowded local trains during the peak hours on Thursday morning, the second day after local trains resumed in Bengal with little or no regard for Covid-19 safety protocols.
Several passengers demanded increase in frequency of trains to avoid the rush. Railway police personnel and other officials were seen making futile attempts to control the surge of passengers at the stations, mainly in the Eastern Railway’s Sealdah and Howrah divisions.
The situation was slightly better in the Howrah- Kharagpur section of the South Eastern Railway on Thursday, with trains being relatively less congested.
Long queues in front of ticket counters, snaking way outside the station premises, were seen since early morning at various places including Sonarpur, Baruipur, Mallickpur, Sodepur, Barrackpore, Serampore, Naihati.
Throwing caution to the air, passengers jostled to boarded or disembarked the crammed compartments. In many trains, commuters occupied seats with stickers asking not to use them.
The Eastern Railway has said that it would be operating 615 locals daily in its two divisions, while SER would be running 81 services as of now. Meanwhile, an altercation took place between the passengers and the railway police at Mallickpore station earlier this morning. The passengers alleged that despite waiting for two hours or more, they were unable to get a ticket or renew their monthly passes resulting in irregular queues and crowding near the counters.
At Baruipur station, a passenger was said to have been injured after falling off the local train while trying to get into the Lakshmikantapur EMU. The passenger was admitted to a hospital at Baruipur.