India’s train passenger numbers are down nearly 99% for the five months from April to August, while freight volumes are down only 13% during the same period, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said today.
“Owing to the discontinuance of passenger services after the introduction of the lockdown to contain COVID-19 pandemic, upto the end of August, the number of originating passengers has been 1.27% of the corresponding period last year and freight loading has been 86.6% of the corresponding period.
“Consequently, the traffic revenue of Railways’ to the end of August 2020, at ₹ 41,844.31 Crore has declined by 42.3% over the corresponding period last year,” the minister said today.
Due to the lock-down imposed in the wake of the pandemic, nearly 1.8 cr tickets had to be canceled between March 22 and June 30, leading to refunds of around Rs 2,381 cr, he pointed out.
Piyush Goyal said it was not possible to ramp up the operations of Indian Railways due to “concerns of state governments”.
In May, Goyal had announced that he was in favor of ramping up the operations of passenger trains in the country, with an initial 100 pairs of long-distance trains being started on June 1.
However, since then, Indian Railways seems to have done a rethink on the policy, and hardly any new trains were restarted over a period of nearly three-and-a-half months. It was only four days ago (12 September) that another 43 pairs of trains were introduced.
In fact, some sectors on which trains were running two months ago — and for which tickets were available on irctc.co.in — show no trains at all now on the booking website. These include routes like Bangalore-Kochi, which had trains running back in June.
“In the wake of COVID 19 and as a measure of abundant caution, booking has been suspended on this route for all trains until further advice,” the IRCTC website says.
Goyal said Indian Railways has to keep in mind the concerns of state governments.
“At present, only Special trains with limited stoppages are being operated, keeping in view the concerns of the State Governments in order to facilitate the management of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
At the same time, Goyal also asserted that “no case of Covid-19 infection during train travel has been reported” in India.