After a meeting between railway officials and the state government in Nabanna on Thursday to discuss the modalities of service resumption, it was decided that Eastern Railway (ER) and South-Eastern Railway (SER) will initially operate around 20%-25% of their pre-Covid services. Sources, however, said that the rail officials may consider 50% services to start with. They are likely to place this proposal before the state on Monday to ensure no crowding on trains.
At Thursday’s meeting, ER and SER proposed 362 services initially: 228 (114 pairs of trains) by ER in the Sealdah division; another 100 (50 pairs of trains) by ER in the Howrah division; and 34 (17 pairs of trains) by SER in the Kharagpur division.
“This is nearly 25% of the total number of services we used to run in the Sealdah and Howrah divisions,” said a senior railway official. “The original number of services was around 1,300 in these two divisions. SER is starting with about 20% services, and this will go up as and when required.”
However, there will be no new timetable or changes in stoppages. We already have timetables for Howrah, Sealdah and Kharagpur. By Monday, we shall indicate which of the trains will run, so passengers can plan accordingly,” he added.
Ticket counters will also open as usual. Those who have balance left over in their monthly season tickets can get them revalidated at the originating stations. The additional days left before expiry of the MSTs would be added to the fresh ones issued.
There will be strict adherence to social distancing and hygiene norms at stations, it was decided. Masks will be mandatory for all. Other precautions to be taken to reduce the spread of Covid-19 among commuters were discussed during Thursday’s meeting, too.
While there will be random thermal screening at stations, some grey areas continue to remain. There were concerns over effective crowd control at porous suburban stations. “We do anticipate certain problems, both at ticket counters and on platforms. Later, once things settle down, we plan to increase the number of services. However, we can’t ensure total protection,” said another railway official.