New Delhi: Indian Railways on Friday said there is no plan to curtail or stop train services and assured passengers that trains would be provided on demand amidst reports of migrant workers rushing to their hometowns, reminiscent of the days following the coronavirus-triggered lockdown.
A number of officials, including Railway Board Chairman Suneet Sharma, General Manager, Southern Railway John Thomas and the chief public relations officers (CPROs) of the Northern and Central Railways, reached out to the media to deny reports of an exodus of migrant workers to their hometowns via trains.
Sharma assured the passengers that there is no dearth of trains and the Railways is ready to put them into service on a short notice.
"There is no plan to curtail or stop train services. We will run as many services as required. There is no cause for alarm. We can run trains immediately on demand if there is any rush. This rush is normal during the summer season and we have already announced trains to clear the rush," he said.
With the number of COVID-19 cases on the rise, a sudden surge in passenger movement at railway stations was reported from across the country. Many travellers, speaking to the media, said the fear of an imminent lockdown was the reason behind their trips.
The Railway Board chairman also ruled out the need for a COVID-negative certificate to travel by train.
He said the Railways has not received any communique yet from Maharashtra to stop or curtail the movement of trains in view of the rising number of coronavirus cases.
Thomas appealed to the public not to believe rumours doing the rounds of social media regarding overcrowding at railway stations. He urged them to avoid sharing old videos and false reports on social media platforms.
In Mumbai, the Central Railway CPRO took reporters on a live tour of the Mumbai area stations via live-streaming of visuals from platforms and circulating areas to highlight that "contrary to what has been reported by certain sections of the media, there is no rush at the stations in the Mumbai area".
In Delhi, the Northern Railway CPRO gave the media a tour of the New Delhi railway station, again to show that there is no "rush".
At present, on an average, the Indian Railways is running a total of 1,402 special train services per day. A total of 5,381 suburban train services and 830 passenger train services are also operational. Apart from this, 28 special trains are being operated as clones of highly-patronised trains with a high demand.
Sharma said additional trains were being run during April-May to clear the rush in the Central Railway with 58 trains (29 pairs) and in the Western Railway with 60 trains (30 pairs). These trains are for high-demand destinations such as Gorakhpur, Patna, Darbhanga, Varanasi, Guwahati, Barauni, Prayagraj, Bokaro, Ranchi and Lucknow among others, he added.
In a mass exodus barely a year ago when the nationwide lockdown was announced to curb the spread of the coronavirus, thousands of people walked hundreds of kilometres back to their home states with the railway services having been suspended.
While there is no consolidated data on how many migrant workers lost their lives walking home, the visuals of them carrying their belongings on their heads with their little ones in tow, trudging through the cityscape had captured popular imagination.
Asked if there is a possibility of another such eventuality, Sharma said the Railways was ready and on standby to run as many services as needed when the time comes.
"Last year, we were not in service. This time, our trains are running and we are ready to provide trains wherever there is a rush and demand. There is no reason to worry," the Railway Board chairman asserted.