KOLKATA: The state government wants Eastern Railway and South Eastern Railway to operate more trains than the 10%-15% service that they had proposed at Monday’s meeting. State home secretary H K Dwivedi has convened a meeting with key officials of the two rail divisions on Wednesday to discuss the issue and chalk out plans ahead of the proposed announcement on Thursday.
In a letter to railway officials, Dwivedi wrote: “In order to decongest the processes relating to evacuation, dispersal and movement of commuters, I am directed to request you to run sufficient number of suburban local trains for daily passengers connecting different suburban nodes with Howrah and Sealdah.”
The two rail divisions had said they would initially resume operations with 10%-15% of the pre-Covid service and ramp it up to 25% after a few days. They had also said that the trains would ply with half the seating capacity. But the proposal was met with consternation with many questioning how so few trains could prevent crowding.
Prior to the pandemic, ER and SER operated around 1,500 trains daily and ferried around 30 lakh passengers. If it runs a service of 150-225 trains and carries only 600 passengers in each, the commuter count would be between 90,000 to 1.4 lakh.
Among those expected to attend Wednesday’s meeting include divisional railway managers of Howrah, Sealdah and Kharagpur as well as principal chief operations managers of ER and SER. On the agenda are train schedules and stoppages. Railway officials had on Monday said they would operate trains on all routes but many of them may be galloping ones.
To begin with, railways may only allow suburban commuters to travel up to Howrah or Sealdah from the originating stations. “Those demanding resumption of services wish to travel to Kolkata for work. One option is to allow people to either purchase or renew monthly season tickets (MSTs),” a railway official said, adding that it would do away with break journeys.
Under Indian Railway rules, those purchasing suburban tickets of MSTs to a particular destination can’t get off at any other station even if the fare is same.
Another proposal is to operate galloping trains. For instance, a Bandel-Howrah local may stop at all stations till Srirampore or Sheoraphuli and then travel non-stop to Howrah. Srirampore-Howrah or Sheoraphuli-Howrah locals may stop at all stations. Similarly, a Tarakeswar-Howrah local could stop at all stations till Sheoraphuli and then run non-stop to Howrah.
Railway officials have said they want help from state police to control access to suburban stations that are porous in nature with multiple entry points. Apart from Railway police and cops, civic volunteers may also be deployed. The state will arrange for adequate transport at stations to facilitate quick passenger dispersal.