Even as the government of India has started relaxing the lockdown measure in an effort to bring back the country to normalcy, the Indian Railways has announced the gradual resumption of passenger train services in the country. In a press release issued on May 10, Indian Railways said that it plans to gradually restart passenger train operations from 12th May, 2020.
Initially, the services will restart only with 15 pairs of trains, which will mean a total of 30 return journeys. The trains will run as special trains, but they will be open to be booked by general passengers, unlike the current Shramik special trains which are booked by individual state governments to transport people stranded at various places due to the Coronavirus Lockdown.
The 15 special trains which will start operating from 12 May will connect national capital New Delhi with Dibrugarh, Agartala, Howrah, Patna, Bilaspur, Ranchi, Bhubaneswar, Secunderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram, Madgaon, Mumbai Central, Ahmedabad and Jammu Tawi.
After these trains start, more special trains on new routes will be added by the Indian Railways. But before adding new trains, 20,000 coaches will be reserved for COVID-19 care centres and adequate number of coaches are being reserved to enable operation of up to 300 trains everyday as “Shramik Special” for stranded migrants. The new trains after the first 15 trains will be added based on the number of available coaches, the ministry said.
Booking for reservation in these trains will start at 4 pm on 11th May and will be available only on the IRCTC website. Ticket booking counters at the railway stations shall remain closed and no counter tickets will be issued, including platform tickets. Ministry has added that only passengers with valid confirmed tickets will be allowed to enter the railway stations.
Moreover, it will be mandatory for the passengers to wear face cover and undergo screening at departure and only asymptomatic passengers will be allowed to board the trains. Railway will publish the schedule and other details of the trains later on. It may be noted that passenger train services were suspended in the country from 23rd March to contain the spread of Coronavirus. Initially it was suspended till 31st March, but when the country went into a nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of Coronavirus and then got subsequently extended twice, train services also remained suspended. Since last week, Indian Railways has started running special trains, named Shramik Special trains, on the exclusive request of state governments to enable migrant labours, pilgrims, students and others to reach their native places after remaining stranded at various places for over a month due to the lockdown.