Mumbai: Taking note of the mass Covid-19 vaccination drive kick-started across Maharashtra, the decision on resuming suburban local trains services for all is likely to come by the end of January or in the first week of February, according to sources in the Railways. This comes as railway officials believe the number of cases have reduced across the city and now, with the arrival of the vaccines, the virulence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus will be reduced, they feel. Only after a review of the current situation will officials decide on trains for all.
Mumbai suburban services were shut down to the public ever since the nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak in March 2020. Services were resumed on June 15, only for essential services staff, as identified by the Government of Maharashtra. Currently, differently-abled people, cancer patients, women, and lawyers are allowed to travel by train, along with essential workers.
“Currently, we are operating more than 90 per cent of local train services and do not have any problems. We are waiting for the state government directive on allowing the general public. A decision is expected soon, once the pandemic situation is reviewed,” a railway official said.
Another railway official said while there was no harm in operating local train services for all, they would have to put in place crowd management arrangements at railway stations, though the number of cases had reduced and vaccines had arrived. A final decision would be taken after considering the number of cases across Maharashtra. “There has not yet been any finalisation on resumption of train services for the public. Discussions are underway. Only after completely reviewing the situation with the state government and the observance of coronavirus protocols, will local train services be resumed,” he said.
Meanwhile, Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Vijay Wadettiwar said he had spoken to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and was positive about reopening railway services after reviewing the pandemic situation. “With the risk of the spread of the new variant of the virus, we will have to be careful before deciding on railway services for all. Now that the vaccination drive has started across Maharashtra, we will undertake a complete review, after which we will decide. Most importantly, we need to think of crowd management,” he said.
However transport experts are keen on the resumption of local trains for all, as managing crowds at bus stops is proving more difficult than at railway stations. “The decision on resuming services should be taken soon, as cases have decreased and it will also reduce pressure on the BEST and MSRTC buses, which are more crowded than local trains nowadays,” he said.
In December, the Maharashtra government had allowed passengers travelling on outstation trains to use local trains to commute in the city, on both the Central and Western Railways. Similarly, those travelling on outstation trains from the city will be allowed to travel by local trains to reach the long-distance train’s station of origin.