Coronavirus: Platforms empty, only 10 trains arrive at India’s busiest railway station
Even as the ministry of railways has cancelled all passenger trains until March 31, Howrah station, which caters to the twin cities of Kolkata and Howrah, was deserted before closing down for the next one week amid the coronavirus outbreak.Updated: Mar 24, 2020 06:20 IST
The 12937 Garbha Express, which left Gandhidham junction in Gujarat on March 21, was scheduled to be the last train to arrive in West Bengal’s Howrah station around 9 pm on Monday before the country’s busiest and oldest railway complex closes down until March 31.
“Usually 455 local trains and around 130 mail and express trains arrive and depart from the Howrah station every day. But on Monday, only 10 trains arrived and not a single train has departed. All trains have been cancelled because of Covid-19. These 10 trains are long-distance trains like the Garbha Express and had left their destination even before [voluntary] Janta curfew [on Sunday to check the spread of the disease],” said Ishaq Khan, divisional railway manager of Howrah.
Even as the ministry of railways has cancelled all passenger trains until March 31, Howrah station, which caters to the twin cities of Kolkata and Howrah, was deserted before closing down for the next one week.
“I have never seen such a desolate Howrah station in my life. Even on days when political parties used to call bandhs and life in Kolkata and Howrah used to come to a virtual standstill, the station used to remain abuzz with stranded passengers. But this time it was eerily desolate,” said Prateek Mondol, who had to take a bus to Bandel, around 50km away, as no trains were available.
All the 24 platforms were empty. With no scheduled departures and only 10 trains to arrive, the giant digital screens had little information to display. The number of railway porters had thinned out by the afternoon. Shops at the station had downed their shutters.
Around one million passengers come to Howrah station on any given weekday. But with Janta curfew of Sunday and all trains being cancelled from Monday, passengers were sparse.
“In the morning, we got some people – around 50 – who came to the station to cancel their tickets and get a refund. It was only when a train arrived that there were some passengers on the platforms. But even they left one by one...,” said a station employee who did not wish to be named.
While the entrance of the old complex was blocked and guarded by security personnel, the new complex of the station was open but no one was being allowed to enter it.