The Indian Railways on Saturday said it would run an additional 2,600 Shramik Special trains in the next 10 days as per the needs of the State governments. This was likely to benefit 36 lakh stranded migrants across the country, Railway Board Chairman V. K. Yadav said.
Noting that since May 1, 2,600 such trains had been run, carrying about 35 lakh passengers, Mr. Yadav said the Railways would continue to run such trains as long as they were needed.
As per data shared by the Railways, of the 2,600 Shramik Special trains run so far a maximum of 1,246, or 48.5%, of the trains terminated in Uttar Pradesh, and 804, or 31.3%, of the trains terminated in Bihar.
As per the last Census figures, more than 4 crore people migrate for work in the country, Punya Salila Srivastava, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs, said during the briefing.
Ms. Srivastava said that in addition to those travelling on the Shramik Special trains, more than 40 lakh migrants had travelled via inter-State buses.
Mr. Yadav said the Railways had decided to use about 50% of the 5,000 ‘COVID care centre’ coaches for the Shramik Special trains as their capacity was currently idle.
Replying to a query on a U.P. bound train from Maharashtra reaching Odisha, the Railway Board Chairman said that with 80% of Shramik Special trains going to U.P. and Bihar there was network congestion on the routes; hence, Indian Railways had diverted some trains to run on alternate routes.
“We have a train operation protocol… we are monitoring 24×7 and taking decisions on every train,” Mr. Yadav explained. “We diverted some trains… if we run trains on the same route, no train will be able to reach; it is better to run trains on routes which have less traffic. This procedure is followed even in normal times,” he added.
Asked about the impact on Railways revenues, Mr. Yadav said that while freight loading was at 70% compared to the same time last year, passenger revenues had been zero for the past two months. “We are trying to restore passenger services and return to normalcy… For the 200 trains that are to run June 1 onwards, till now 17 lakh passengers have booked tickets.”
He said while 30% of the overall berth capacity had been booked till now, there were trains in which bookings had exceeded 90%. “So we keep analysing the demand, and depending on these trends we will introduce more trains,” he said.
Mr. Yadav added that the Railways was only charging the normal pre-lockdown fares for these special passenger trains. “There has been no increase in fares,” he said.
Responding to a query on a letter by the West Bengal government asking that all migrant trains to the State be suspended till May 26 in the wake of cyclone Amphan, Mr. Yadav said: “The West Bengal Chief Secretary wrote to me that restoration work is underway and they will tell us soon when they will be able to receive the trains. As soon as they give us clearance, we will run trains to West Bengal”.