KOLKATA: Eastern Railway (ER) announced on Sunday that it will start running 615 suburban services in its the Howrah and Sealdah divisions from Wednesday. South Eastern Railway (SER) will run 81 services in its Kharagpur Division. This will come as a major relief for those who were apprehensive that the railways would resume suburban trains with only about 10%- 15% services. This was what the railways had planned initially but revised its schedule after realising that running fewer services may lead to overcrowding and a compromise on social distancing norms.
“We used to run nearly 1,500 services in the Howrah and Sealdah divisions before the pandemic. From Wednesday, we shall be running about 47%- 48% of these services. SER will also be doing the same. This will be a great help to passengers. More importantly, it will ensure less crowding and maintenance of a safe distance between people inside the coaches. We plan to increase the number of services at a later date,” a senior railway official said.
The modalities involving crowd management and dispersal of people from stations will be discussed between officials of the state government and railways on Monday. The actual schedule of train running will also be placed before state officials by the railways during this meeting. The railways has also decided that a limited number of Circular Railway services will also be resumed from Wednesday. Revalidation of Monthly Season Tickets (MSTs) will also be done from UTS counters at stations on Monday.
The other issues to be discussed during Monday’s meeting are ways to tackle law and order issues at stations and thermal scanning of passengers. Though it is likely to be a difficult task, both the state and railways want an orderly movement at stations and people to maintain social distancing while waiting for trains. To reduce unnecessary gatherings, illegal stalls will not be allowed to operate at stations. The issue of proper dispersal at Dum Dum Jn to avoid a rush of people towards Metro counters will also be discussed.
“The CPs and SPs of all districts through which suburban services pass have been asked to attend the meeting. The decision by the railways to increase number of services has come as a relief,” a senior state official said. The railways maintained that they had initially planned to run fewer services as they had believed that there will be restrictions on those allowed to use them. After realising that the state has no such plans, the number of services was raised.