Local trains, the heart of Mumbai that ferried about 7.5 million people per day were shut down completely on March 23 after the nationwide lockdown. After a huge stoppage suburban train services in Mumbai are set to resume from this week as early as Monday.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray last demanded resumption of suburban train services in Mumbai for movement of staff on essential services duty. A senior state government official said that in view of the hardships faced by essential workers in commuting to their place of work, there was a need for resuming the services. After consultations with the Railway Board, a plan for resuming services has been put in place. Senior officials of Central Railways also held a meeting to work out the modalities. Railways as well as the state government will ensure multiple rounds of checking to ensure only essential workers board these trains. The first round of checking will be held before people are allowed inside the station premises. All the ticketing staff will be wearing Personal Protective Equipment at the stations. While there will be no thermal scanning for passengers at the station premises, the state government has been urged to ensure all those allowed to travel are done so after ensuring that they are medically fit and do not come from a containment zone. Both Central Railway and Western Railway are expected to operate a limited number of services based on the number of people approved by the state government to use the services. To allow adequate social distancing in the coaches, unlike its seating capacity to accommodate about 1,200 people, only about 700 are to be allowed per coach. Further the state government is expected to stagger the timings of its offices for workers coming from different areas to ensure there is no crowding at the stations and inside the trains.
Divisional Railway Manager (CR) Shalabh Goel said, “So far there is no written statement from railway board and trains won’t route without written sanction. However, several inter departmental meetings were held with commercial officers wherein ticket checkers have been asked to report for duty at their headquarters with QR code scanners in their cellphones. On Sunday the meeting was scheduled with those from the operations departments to finalise details of the number of services and the social distancing norms that are to be adhered to in coaches and how many trains will be required.
Under the plan no tickets will be issued for essential workers boarding these trains from the ticket counter. The employees instead will be given QR based ID cards which will also bear colour coding to enable Swiffer ticket checking. These cards will be directly handed over to the state government for distribution.
Railway Protection Force (RPF) along with ticketing staff is expected to be deployed at entry points of the stations to ensure only authorised people get to enter station premises where there will be separate entry and exit points. Around 3.75 lakh essential workers used bus services during the lockdown. The local trains that ferried about 7.5 million people per day were shut down completely on March 23 after the nationwide lockdown was announced.