COVID-19 in Mumbai: As cases speed up, passengers apply breaks on train journeys

Amidst the surge in COVID-19 cases and the new guidelines from the Maharashtra government, the number of people travelling by local trains has reduced this month. The Western Railway (WR) has seen a drop of 1.5 lakh daily passengers, while the Central Railway (CR) has recorded a dip of 2 lakh daily passengers as compared to the figures recorded in January and February this year.

People don't want to come to Mumbai and Maharashtra from other states with the seat availability touching anywhere between 50 to 300 across classes. One can check the status of ticket availability on various rail ticketing websites.

At present, WR is ferrying an average of around 16.50 lakh passengers every day. It used to be 18 lakh and above only a month ago. On the CR, the daily average is hovering around 19 lakh, which used to be 21 lakh to 22 lakh per day in February. Before the lockdown, the two railways ferried 80 lakh people everyday.

The new guidelines of Maharashtra government have once again limited office staff at 50 per cent of the total strength. "This is also an important reason behind the drop in daily passenger count, as people are going back to working from home," said a railway official. Currently, the Railways is operating 95 per cent of total services. Until January 29, 19 lakh passengers were travelling daily in 2,986 services.

There are indicators of an exodus happening in other parts of the country. "The wait list in long distance trains to the north is a lot and people are leaving. These are namely to states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar," said a CR official.

The trains from Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Bihar and Rajasthan arriving in Mumbai are running empty. Tickets are available in most of the trains in plenty even for those who want to come today or tomorrow (March 26 and March 27) to celebrate Holi with their family.

Sources said that trains to the north are running full. However, in states where restrictions have been imposed, like Gujarat, Karnataka, Goa, Delhi, Kerala and Rajasthan, people are sceptical to go. In all these states, the respective governments have made RT-PCR reports mandatory from passengers arriving by train or flight from Maharashtra. Another reason could also be the Maharashtra government banning celebration of Holi.

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