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Train service resumes under strict SOPs


May 21, 2020

After a gap of 56 days, the first train from Karachi carrying passengers a little over half its capacity left the Cantt Station at 10am on Wednesday under the strict observance of standard operating procedures (SOPs). The intercity bus operation, however, remained suspended.

The Pakistan Railways has partially resumed the train service until May 30. Thermal scanners have been installed inside and outside the railway station for the screening of passengers.

The first train, namely the Awaam Express, which has a total capacity of 1,048 passengers, left the Cantt Station at 10am for Peshawar with 550 passengers. “The reservation was of 640 passengers but only 550 went,” said Tariq Asad, deputy director of the Pakistan Railways’ public relations department.

The last train to leave the station on Wednesday was the Khyber Mail with 660 passengers towards Peshawar. During the preventive lockdown against COVID-19, the freight train operation has been in full swing.

All the divisional officers and the railways police superintendent were present to supervise the processing of the passenger trains in accordance with the SOPs devised by the Pakistan Railways headquarters, said Karachi Division Superintendent Arshad Salam Khattak.

Eleven up-country and as many down-country train services have resumed on a daily basis from Karachi to important provincial capitals and cities.

The cumulative capacity of the 11 Karachi-bound trains is approximately 11,000 passengers, but the reservations would be made for a maximum of 6,600 seats in accordance with the principal SOP of 60 per cent occupancy during the pandemic.

“All the SOPs have been implemented in letter and spirit while resuming the train operation, and there will be no compromise in case of any violation,” said Khattak while talking to the media at the Cantt Station.

The Eid season, he said, is one of the revenue-earning seasons for the Pakistan Railways, but this time the government, keeping in mind the difficulties faced by the public, has facilitated the railway passengers by commencing the train operation with a reduced number of passengers.

The divisional superintendent also lauded the role played by the railways’ workers and officers of the Pakistan Railways for their untiring efforts to carry out the required maintenance for a safe train operation during the eight-week-long suspension period.

“It’s the railways’ workers and officers that have made the resumption of the train operation possible today” he said. No one was allowed to enter the railway station on Wednesday except for those who had tickets and national identity cards with them. “No relatives were allowed inside the station to see any one off,” he said. Inside the berths of the trains, the Pakistan Railways has allowed only four passengers, even though each compartment has a capacity to hold at least six passengers. “We have reactivated only the reservation system. Manual ticketing is completely closed,” said Asad.

He added that the Pakistan Railways has not started refunding the tickets purchased before the lockdown because for that they would have to open their ticketing counter. However, for those who are willing to adjust their tickets in partial train services being run, they can do it online. No passenger was allowed to enter the platform without a soap or sanitiser, gloves and a mask. The doctors and workers of the Pakistan Railways checked the temperatures of the passengers with thermal guns.

Intercity transport

The Sindh Intercity Bus Association announced resuming their operations from Wednesday without seeking the permission from the provincial government. Rab Nawaz, the president of the association, said that the first bus was to leave from Karachi’s Saddar area at 4pm on Wednesday.

The office of the Provincial Transport Authority lodged FIRs against the members of the association, after which the intercity bus operation could not resume. However, there are reports of four to five intercity buses leaving the city silently. The transporters, however, later sought bails from sessions courts.

Nawaz had said that the bus operation would resume from eight bus stations in the city. After reports of the intercity bus operations emerged from Hyderabad, the Sindh Transport Department sealed the intercity bus station in the city. According to a press statement issued by the transport department, despite the ban on the intercity transport, buses and vans departed from Hyderabad to other cities. Given the situation, all the officials of the transport department have been alerted in all the districts of the province.