Howrah and Sealdah

Bengal, 9th November: Eastern Railway (ER) and Southeastern railway will start running 698 suburban services in the Howrah and Sealdah divisions from Wednesday. 413 trains will run from Sealdah and 202 will run from Howrah division.

This will come as a major relief for those who were apprehensive that the railways would resume suburban trains with only about 10%-15% service. This was what the railways have planned initially but revised its schedule after realizing fewer services may lead to overcrowding and compromise on social distancing norms.

1,351 trains used to run in the Howrah and Sealdah division before the pandemic. Now we are going to run about 47%-48% of these services. No one will be allowed to sit on the middle seats. 80% of the trains will run during office hours.

SP Singh, DRM of Sealdah station said “Instead of 228 trains now, 413 trains will run on the track from Wednesday. It has been decided there will be no changes in the timing of trains. However, a final decision is yet to come. Ticket counters will be open at the station. 80 per cent of trains will run in-office time. RPF and state police personals will be deployed. There will be a possibility of increasing the local trains as per requirement. Thermal scanning will be done by the state government before entering the station. Passengers will be requested to maintain the queue while entering the station.”

A series of protests and blockades of railway tracks by commuters demanding resumption of suburban trains affected the movement of staff special and long-distance trains.

The number of trains has been increased from 100 to 202, the service will resume from Wednesday. The responsibility of handling the rush will be on the Railway and State Police. UPS counters will be open at Howrah station where passengers can renew their monthly tickets. Passengers have to maintain a queue and also have to follow social distancing. In order to control the crowd, the Railway Protection Force will take charge of the GRP and the state government,” said Ishaq Khan, DRM of Howrah.

Yesterday, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal share the information on a tweet that “The Railways will run 696 suburban services in West Bengal from November 11.”

With lakhs of commuters dependent on local train services, which serve as a lifeline for the suburbs and rural areas for more than 100 km away from Kolkata, there is an apprehension of violation of maintaining COVID safety protocols, especially during the morning and evening peak hours when trains are usually chock-a-block with passengers.