Demand Surges For Special AC Trains On Dynamic Fare System Amid Covid-19 Lockdown
Bookings surge for Rajdhani-type AC train services as the railways puts in motion a plan to meet increasing demand from passengers.
Within hours of opening bookings, nearly 60,000 passengers bought their tickets on dynamic fare system as Indian Railways allowed Rajdhani-type AC train service to 15 destinations to boost economic activity in a graded manner.
With the iron wheel moving for a limited operation after nearly 50 days of shutdown, the ‘lifeline’ of the country seems to be on course for a full-fledged run to cater to the increasing number of passengers.
The booking for special trains started on IRCTC ticketing website at 6 pm on 11 May, and after 90 minutes 18,000 tickets were booked online.
Besides, 513 Shramik Specials were operational until now since 1 May, carrying nearly 6 lakh stranded migrants to various cities across the country.
These Shramik Special trains have ferried migrants to cities like Tiruchirappalli, Titlagarh, Barauni, Khandwa, Jagannathpur, Khurda Road, Prayagraj, Chhapra, Balia, Gaya, Purnia, Varanasi, Darbhanga, Gorakhpur, Lucknow, Jaunpur, Hatia, Basti, Katihar, Danapur, Muzzaffarpur, Saharsa etc.
However, with the growing demand for more passenger service, both Shramik and Rajdhani-like special trains are to be booked to full capacity.
Earlier, Shramik Special trains were booked to 70 per cent of their capacity, leaving 30 per cent seats to facilitate adequate space among passengers as per social distancing norms.
According to the railways, now people are quite aware of the dangers of the coronavirus and they would take all precautions like using hand sanitisers and wearing face mask required during the journey.
While the Shramik Special trains have catering facilities, special train services do not have catering and bedroll provision unlike Rajdhani.
However, IRCTC shall make provision for limited eatables and packaged drinking water on payment basis; passengers will be required to carry their own blankets and food for the journey.
All categories of concessions are also not valid on these special trains barring a few like freedom fighters, present and former parliamentarians and patients.
It is expected that the railways will increase the passenger service gradually by launching more mail and express trains. There are also possibilities of restarting local and suburban train service depending upon the situation.
"But everything depends on the situation as many cities are still in containment zones. Then the state government has also a role to play in opening up the road traffic to facilitate movement," said a senior railway official.
Though the railways had suspended the general passenger service until 17 May, it allowed full refund for tickets booked until then. Normal booking of tickets has not been allowed yet.
The future course of action depends on how the Covid-19 pandemic pans out, and a decision has to be taken whether ticket booking would be allowed after 17 May or not, said the official.
Zonal railways have been instructed to ensure that there are separate entry and exit gates at railway stations to the extent feasible so that there is no face-to-face movement of passengers.
Zonal railways will be guided by standard social distancing guidelines on stations and trains and observe the safety, security and hygiene protocols.
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