The local and long distance trains will keep running. This is what the Indian Railways has promised. However, the daily lockdown from 8pm to 7am across Mumbai and Maharashtra has given birth to a new problem for the Indian Railways.
Passengers wanting to leave Mumbai and go back to their native states, are reaching 4-6 hours before their train schedule fearing that they would be stopped by the police on the road. The situation has worsened to the extent that on April 9, the Western Railway (WR) asked its officers to inspect and manage crowds at railway stations and terminus from where long distance trains depart.
"The station can accommodate only that many passengers whose trains are one hour later. Couple of days ago at Bandra Terminus we stopped at least 300 people from entering the station who didn't have valid tickets," said Alok Kansal, General Manager, WR.
A letter was shot by the Divisional Railway Manager on April 8 mentioning about the heavy rush observed in trains originating and passing through. 'Officers deployed at the stations should pro-actively assess the emerging situation and escalate issues for resolution before a potential adverse situation arises' reads the Note on Crowd management at sensitive stations.
Over the last few days the railway stations and terminus like Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT), Kurla LTT, Dadar, Thane, Kalyan, Mumbai Central, Bandra Terminus, Andheri and Borivali is seeing too much crowd of passengers with luggage leaving Mumbai. The railway authorities are averse to term this as an exodus and are rather terming it as people who are going back home for summer vacation and wedding season rush for whom the WR and CR are running well over 75 Special and Summer special trains until June.
"What we have observed is that passengers are arriving at the stations 4-6 hours before the departure time of the train. If a train is at 10pm, passengers arrive even at 5-6pm to avoid travelling after 8pm," said Sanjeev Mittal, General Manager, Central Railway (CR).
The CR authorities have now started installing temporary tents outside Kurla LTT and will do the same at CSMT as well. This is mainly for accommodating passengers who came early to the station and are waiting in queue. Over the last few days there have been serpentine queues outside railway stations with little social distancing norms being followed.
This comes at a time when the Railway Board has clarified that they will continue to provide as many trains as possible on both long distance and suburban sections. "We will continue running trains," said Suneet Sharma, Chief Executive Officer, Railway Board.
Railways claim that the videos circulating on social media on overcrowded stations and trains are fake. In fact the Central Railway has already registered a complaint with the GRP and Mumbai Police whose cyber cell department is identifying the source of these videos. In fact both CR and WR have stopped issuing platform tickets from Friday in a bid to curb the number of people on platforms.
Moreover the number of RPF and Commercial staff are also thinning owing to them getting infected by the second wave of Coronavirus. The rail authorities confirm that they are in touch with State and Centre to add more number of categories of staff as frontline workers for vaccination.