The Maharashtra government wants the suburban train operations in Mumbai, the city’s lifeline, restarted, but the Railways has apprehensions about resuming services due to the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.
On October 28, the Maharashtra government wrote a letter to the Railways requesting that local trains be allowed to ply during non-peak hours by observing COVID-19 norms. As of now, only essential services staff and women are allowed to travel by local trains.
The letter suggested that those who hold a valid ticket or pass be allowed to board local trains till 7.30 am, then between 11 am and 4.30 pm, and after 8 pm till the end of the services, reported The Indian Express. It said that 8 am to 10.30 am and 5 pm to 7.30 pm should be reserved for only essential services staff with a valid QR code or identity card and valid ticket or pass, and there should be a ladies special train every hour.
However, the Railways has not yet taken a decision. The suburban trains in Mumbai are used by over 80 lakh people daily. But the Railways has said it can carry only 22 lakh passengers if COVID guidelines are to be adhered to. It has asked the state to explain how it would ensure social distancing of passengers.
The Railways has restarted 2,773 of the 3,141 services, or about 88 per cent, of the services that were operational before the pandemic struck. It started 1,363 services since the state government wrote the letter.
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The Maharashtra government has alleged that the Railways was refusing to taking a decision due to pressure from the BJP. The state was hoping to earn favour among the people by getting the services started during the Diwali festival.
In October, the Maharashtra government had directed that women should be allowed to use local trains, but the Railways had stalled the proposal saying it had to be cleared by the Railway Board first. It was eventually cleared by the Railways.