Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is expected to raise the state's demand for the resumption of suburban rail services in Mumbai during his video conference with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to make it easier for frontline workers and support staff to report for duty.
According to officials, however, there are discussions between railway authorities, state officials, and home affairs ministry, and from Monday local train services for essential workers may start.
A senior official of the government said there was a need to resume the services given the hardships faced by essential workers when commuting to their place of work.
A plan for resuming services has been put in place following consultations with the Railway Board. Senior Central Railway officials also held a Saturday meeting to work out the modalities.
When contacted, Shalabh Goel, Divisional Railway Manager (CR) said, "There was no written communication from the railway board." He added that trains would not run without written consent. However, on Saturday evening several interdepartmental meetings were held with commercial officers where ticket checkers were asked to report with QR code scanners in their cell phones for duty at their headquarters.
Similarly, another meeting with those from the operations departments is scheduled on Sunday to finalize details of the number of services and social distance standards to be adhered to in coaches and how many trains will be needed.
Under the plan, no tickets will be issued from the ticket counter for essential workers who board those trains. Instead, the employees will receive QR-based ID cards that will also bear colour-coding to allow quicker checking of tickets. These cards are to be distributed directly to the state government.
Railways, as well as the state government, will ensure multiple rounds of checks to ensure that these trains are boarded solely by essential workers. The first round of checks will take place before people are allowed inside the premises of the station. All ticketing staff at the stations will wear Personal Protective Equipment.
While at the station premises there will be no thermal scanning for passengers, the state government has been urged to ensure that all those allowed to travel do so after ensuring they are medically fit and do not come from the Contact Zone.
It is expected that both Central and Western Railways operate a limited number of services based on the number of people approved
It is expected that the Railway Protection Force (RPF) and ticketing staff will be deployed at station entry points to ensure that only authorized people enter station premises where separate entry and exit points will be available. During the lockdown around 3.75 lakh of essential workers used bus services.
The local trains that were ferrying around 7.5 million people a day were completely shut down on March 23 after the announcement of the nationwide lockdown.
Train services are only requested for frontline workers and to support staff involved in essential services. An official said, since Monday we allowed private offices to operate at 10 per cent of their workforce, there was crowding in buses. This has been causing inconvenience to the people in the essential and emergency services. Many of these travel from distant suburbs. They are already under tremendous stress, and the resumption of rail services would help to provide some relief.