In a big relief to passengers during the lockdown, the Indian Railways is set to open around 170,000 common service centres by Friday and the railway station ticket ticket counters too in the next two to three days.
This comes at a time when ticket booking for 200 non-air conditioned trains that will be operational from June 1, started on Thursday. Within a span of two-and-a-half hours since the booking started, between 400,000 and 500,000 tickets were sold, Railways minister Piyush Goyal said on Thursday. Bookings for the 200 trains started at 10am, except for those running towards the East and North Eastern parts of the country, as internet facilities are yet to be normalised in the region owing to the cyclone Amphan. The national transporter is also expected to announce more trains in June.
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“As a step towards bringing the country back to normalcy, we had started some Rajdhani trains and now from June 1, there will be 200 trains from different states. Notification for these trains are out. Bookings of trains have started. In the next phase, common service centers 170,000 common service centres doing bookings. We are going start booking from these centres from Friday,” Goyal said in an online conversation with BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra. Goyal added that in two to three days, counter bookings at different stations will also be open. Indian Railways is expected to come out with a detailed protocol for this.
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The national transporter had stopped its passenger services starting from March 22. From May 1 on wards, it started Shramik special trains for migrant labourers and from May 12 onwards 15 pairs of special air conditioned trains too started operations. “Till Wednesday, in a span of 20 days, we have operated 2,050 Shramik trains helping almost three million people in reaching their homes. On May 1, a total of four trains were operated carrying only 5,000 passengers, which increased to 279 trains with half a million passengers on Monday,” the minister said.
Till Thursday, only online booking of tickets were allowed. No unreserved tickets will be issued for these trains. The railways said in a statement that general coaches will be also reserved with alloted seats for sitting in these 200 trains and advance reservation (ARP) will be allowed for 30 days, as agains seven days earlier allowed for special AC trains. Before the lockdown, ARP for tickets was four months. For these special trains waitlisted and reservation against cancellation (RAC) tickets will also be allowed. Current reservation will also be available online up to two hours before the scheduled departure of train, while waitlisted passengers will not allowed to travel.
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“Some people wants to come back and some people have started reverse bookings too. Labourers will now be allowed to come back to work also, so that economic activities are back on track,” the minister added. The Railways have already allowed opening of all the shops and stalls in station premises. Though restaurants will not be opened, takeaway will be allowed.