As the holiday season approaches, CR restores passenger train services

Staff reporter:

After a torturous year and a half wait, the railways finally come to the aid of daily travelers

After a year-and-a-half hiatus, Central Railway (CR) has finally given a nod to the restoration of passenger trains which would bring huge relief to daily travellers. Apart from this, the poor and middle classes, who depended for their small business on intercity or district trains, should also benefit. According to reports, Central Railway Nagpur Division has decided to restart Nagpur-Amla-Nagpur, Nagpur-Amla-Itarsi-Nagpur, Nagpur-Wardha-Nagpur, Wardha-Badnera-Wardha, Wardha-Ballarshah-Wardha and Amla-Chhindwara- Amla inter – neighborhood rail services. The Operations Department is likely to start passenger trains from October and refers to the sanction received from Chief Commercial Manager (Passenger Marketing), Central Railway. As the authorization in the railways is centralized, everything has to be authorized at the highest level, the Railway Board, and this is the reason for the delay in the standardization of passenger train services.

At South East Central Railway (SECR), although they have been ahead of CR in restarting services, operations are currently limited in nature. As the nationwide lockdown decelerated in the last week of March 2020, these rail services stopped running. While long-distance Courier/Express trains restarted from September 2020, passenger train operations remained in limbo, placing a financial burden on regular travellers, be they working in government offices but staying in town or vice versa and also in the private sector. The decision has hit daily travelers hard, especially office travelers whose travel plans have gone sour. Since they had to go to the offices daily, they had to look for alternative plans, such as buses. Many of them opted for private vehicles for better convenience. The excessive delay on the part of the railway administration for reasons well known to them proved to be very costly for the citizens. With the skyrocketing prices of gasoline and diesel, daily office workers have had to shell out extra money to undertake a daily commute. Similarly, small traders dependent on the Nagpur wholesale market have also felt left out due to unavailability of inter-district services in central India.

The other alternative, that of traveling on the Mail/Express trains, was too expensive and, in addition, the railways offer them as special offers for which an additional fee is charged, making it one of the fares the highest. Therefore, Central Railway’s decision to restart passenger train service is most welcome. Many other passenger service routes that were extremely convenient and popular await the announcement of the start of suspended trains. For example, Nagpur-Bhusaval, which was the first morning train from Nagpur Railway Station, provided much needed connectivity to smaller towns and locations and those who had to reach first hour in offices were its regular customers. There was also a service that connects east and west of Vidarbha, Nagpur-Amravati Inter-city whose absence is felt by people who traveled frequently between these two cities. The train started from Ajni and also ended and this fast passenger is absolutely necessary to restore normalcy now that all sectors of the economy are open. Another train is Nagpur-Wardha which was also convenient for students now that many important educational institutions have moved to Wardha. There is no word yet from Central Railway on whether these services will be restored, leaving travelers dry.

Basant Shukla, Secretary, Bharatiya Yatri Kendra said that now that Central Railway and South East Central Railway (SECR) are starting passenger services, the special Mail/Express train tag should also be dropped. Nearly 95% of long-distance rail services are back on track and yet the railways, in the name of a special etiquette, are charging 30-40% more without providing anything more to travelers who abuse the power of monopoly. This is nothing less than daylight theft under the government’s nose and such practices had to be stopped immediately.

Jose P. Rogers