More than 4,000 passengers boarded the first three special ‘Rajdhani trains’ from New Delhi on Tuesday as the Railways resumed services, which had been suspended for over a month under the coronavirus lockdown.
The New Delhi-Bilaspur train which left at 4 pm with over 1,000 people on board was the first passenger service of the Railways to start. The other two were to Dibrugarh in Assam and Bengaluru in Karnataka.
Outside the New Delhi Railway station on Tuesday, there was a steady flow of passengers — students, migrants and professionals from within and outside Delhi — eager to return to their families.
“We are doing thermal screening of passengers as they come into the station and only asymptomatic persons are being allowed inside. Only those who have a confirmed ticket would be allowed into the station. The Aarogya Setu application is mandatory for passengers and we are asking those who do not have it on their phones to download it,” said a Northern Railway spokesperson.
The special trains have only air conditioned First AC and AC 2- and 3-Tier coaches. Tickets were only booked online through the IRCTC portal. Passengers were asked to bring their own food and blankets.
Read| Passenger train services from today: From tickets on IRCTC to precautions, all your questions answered
Hours before the departure of the first train, a queue of passengers slowly moved past police barricades put up outside the Paharganj entrance of the station.
Many had to make a long trek to reach the station. Among them was Sai Kumar (20), who had left his private hostel in Greater Noida at 8.30 in the morning to catch a 9 pm train to Telangana, fearing that he would not be able to find a way to reach the station.
“Everyone was telling me that there is no transport available and my parents were very nervous, so I decided to leave early. I walked till I reached the highway and tried to hitch a ride. I must have tried flagging down around 40-50 cars before one finally stopped. I paid them Rs 600 and they dropped me till Mayur Vihar. There, I got an e-rickshaw which dropped me to the station for Rs 300. In all, I must have walked around 10 km,” said Kumar, a student of computer science and engineering at Noida International University, who reached the station at 3.30 pm.
There were others who came from across Delhi’s borders. This included B Lakshmi (57), who had arrived from Bengaluru on March 19 for what was supposed to be a week-long stay at an ashram in Kampil, in Uttar Pradesh’s Farrukhabad district.
“I was supposed to take a return train on March 27 but I got stuck. I was comfortable at the ashram but my family was having difficulty coping. So I booked my ticket yesterday and this morning, I took a private cab with two other people from Bengaluru to come to Delhi. The ticket was for Rs 2,500 and the cab cost Rs 8,000. We also had to pay Rs 415 as highway toll. What must it be like for those who don’t have money to even eat?” she said.
More than 3,000 passengers travelled on the three special trains, the Railway Ministry said. The first train to roll after the lockdown, from New Delhi to Bilaspur, had 1,072 passengers on board, while the trains to Dibrugarh and Bengaluru had 1,076 passengers each, according to tweets put out by the Ministry.
Fares depended on the distance. The IRCTC website showed that for trains departing on Tuesday, an AC 3-Tier ticket to Dibrugarh was for Rs 2,510. To Bilaspur Junction, the price was Rs 1,950, and to KSR Bengaluru, it was Rs 2,480.
Deepak Khurey (26) removed his shoes to show its torn soles. “I set off from Rewari on foot around 3 pm on Monday, with my brother-in-law and his wife, and reached Delhi around 5 am on Tuesday. We have no money left. I have sold my phone which got me Rs 500, but that’s not enough to buy a ticket to Bilaspur.”
Twenty-year-old Prince Prajapati and five of his friends had set off on foot at 5 in the morning from Dwarka in the hope of finding some way of getting a cheap ticket.
“We are all from the same village in UP’s Deoria district and we had come to Delhi in December to work as painters. But we have not had any work for the last two months. Last night we tried booking tickets but those cost Rs 1,200 each, while none of us had more than Rs 1,000. We thought we would manage something after reaching here, but got intimidated after seeing the large numbers of people in line with tickets,” he said.
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