Record 411 million people took train journeys so far this April: Indian Railways | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Record 411 million people took train journeys so far this April: Indian Railways

Apr 23, 2024 10:02 AM IST

Passenger trains carried around 370 million passengers in the same period last year, while this figure was 350 million in 2019

At least 411 million passengers have taken train journeys across India in the first three weeks of April – making it the highest ever footfall recorded in this time period – as the usual heavy rush this time of the year due to summer vacations has been severely compounded by the onset of the wedding season, and the ongoing elections, Indian Railways (IR) officials said. This unexpected rush has caused problems, with IR resources stretched thin , and social media platforms replete with videos of people crammed inside coaches in desperation to travel by any means.

Most trips were notified by Western Railways (1,878) followed by North Western Railways (1,623), South Central (1,012) and East Central (1,003 trips). (AFP File Photo)
Most trips were notified by Western Railways (1,878) followed by North Western Railways (1,623), South Central (1,012) and East Central (1,003 trips). (AFP File Photo)

Passenger trains carried around 370 million passengers in the same period last year, while this figure was 350 million in 2019, the last time passenger footfall was not impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to officials familiar with IR data. Passenger travel drastically dropped between 2020 and 2022 due to the pandemic.

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“Indian Railways carried 411.6 million passengers between April 1 and 21, out of which 33.8 million passengers were ferried in just the last two days – April 20 and 21 – when this rush has picked up pace,” a Railway Board official said, asking not to be identified.

This has meant that railway stations across India, particularly those that cater to routes that see seasonal rush such as Delhi, Patna, Kolkata, Darbhanga, etc, have witnessed unprecedented rush as passengers with unreserved tickets flocked trains in desperation, entering not only the reserved sleeper class coaches but also AC coaches.

Videos and photographs circulating on social media show trains packed far beyond capacity, with hundreds of people sitting on floors, aisles and even in toilets, and long queues seen outside compartments with people trying to barge into coaches. This has meant thousands of travellers have been stranded, unable to reach their destinations.

The issue was highlighted on X (formerly Twitter) where passengers posted clips of their ordeals. In one of the videos posted on X on April 13, unreserved passengers of Kaifiyaat Superfast express entered the 3AC coach and locked the door, not allowing the reserved passengers to take their seats. The video showed passengers outside the train breaking the door’s glass in an attempt to board the train.

In another video, unreserved passengers were seen seated near the lavatory area of an AC coach.

While the railways spokesperson remained unavailable for an official statement, the official cited above said: “The video that showed the Old Delhi-Azamgarh train that also has a halt at Ayodhya Dham station went viral on April 13 after which Northern Railways was asked to investigate the matter. It was, however, learnt that the video was of an old incident that is believed to have taken place on March 26 – a day after Holi.”

The issue also took a political turn when senior leaders of the opposition tweeted the video. In a post on X which was also shared by Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, senior party leader Rahul Gandhi shared the video and said that travel by trains had become a punishment.

A second railways official however said that the opposition party was misleading the country by posting “old and faulty” videos.

Indian Railways on Friday said that it has increased train trips by 43% and deployed a record number of additional trains to deal with the spike in demand.

“To ensure the convenience of passengers and manage the anticipated surge in travel demand during summers, Indian Railways is operating a record-breaking 9,111 trips during summer season. This marks a substantial rise compared to the summer of 2023, where a total of 6,369 trips were offered. This translates to an increase of 2,742 trips.”

Most trips were notified by Western Railways (1,878) followed by North Western Railways (1,623), South Central (1,012) and East Central (1,003 trips).

“The additional trains have been meticulously planned to connect key destinations across the country, ensuring seamless travel on major railway routes. All zonal railways spread across India have geared up to operate these additional trips, catering to the summer travel rush from states like Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi,” IR stated.

However, the experience on the ground remained chaotic.

Ekta Devi, a Delhi resident who travelled in Bihar Sampark Kranti Express on April 17 said, “I had to travel to Samastipur to attend my brother’s wedding. We have been travelling in peak seasons like Chatt and even Holi, but the rush this time was never before. Out of the seven tickets, only three could be confirmed while the rest of us had to share the seats.”

Shiv Gopal Mishra, general secretary of the All India Railwaymen Federation (AIRF), said, “Two important reasons for the exceptional passenger footfall is the fewer number of wedding days this summer season and higher passenger rush believed to travel to Bihar and Uttar Pradesh for elections.” Migrant workers from both states, working around India, return home to cast their votes.

“The wedding days typically begin from mid April and continue till June every year. However, this year the auspicious days are limited to the month end or maximum till the first few days of May. This has caused the numbers to be highest up till now,” he added.

Shri Prakash, former member (traffic) of the Indian Railway Board said, “Fewer wedding days and election travel has heavily contributed to this situation, but I also believe that we are either seeing a shortage of coaches or locomotives that magnified this situation. This is because locomotives are being used, among others to ply CRPF personnel on election duty. IR is capable of operating 10% to 15% additional trains at such peak travel seasons, hence wedding rush cannot be the only reason.”

When asked if a significant increase in operating high-speed trains may be one of the factors for a drop in the number of regular passenger trains, officials insisted that it was unlikely.

“This cannot be the reason. Moreover, the fact they have introduced special trains is proof that there could not be any such reason,” Mishra added.

“During the ongoing summer rush, IR has introduced daily special trains based on the passenger rush at the stations today (on Monday). These include train from New Delhi to Darbhanga with departure time at 1.20pm, Anand Vihar Terminal to Muzaffarpur Junction at 3.20pm, New Delhi to Patna at 5.15pm and to Saharsa Junction at 8.15pm and Old Delhi to Azamgarh at 7.30pm,” Prem Shanjkar Jha, advisor to Delhi divisional railway manager (DRM) said.

He also said that the Traveling Ticket Examiners (TTE) have been instructed to ensure that no unreserved passenger is able to enter the reserved coaches.

The official said that IR had taken a list of steps to ensure no further inconvenience is caused to reserved passengers and platforms are free of chaos.

“Zonal Railways have been instructed to ensure the availability of drinking water at Railway stations. Senior officers have been stationed at these stations to monitor all the activities to regulate the crowd in a systematic manner and RPF (Railway Protection Force) personnel have been deputed at originating stations to ensure Queue system for entry in general class coaches,” he said.

IR has also deployed RPF staff in CCTV control rooms to keep a close watch on the crowded areas and render real-time assistance to passengers.

“GRP (Government Railway Police) and RPF staff are deployed at foot-over bridges to regulate crowds smoothly to avoid stampede-like situations during the heavy rush period. Additional help desks and counters have been set up to help passengers with their inquiries. We are continuously making arrangements as per the demand,” he added.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    I am a principal correspondent with the national political bureau of the Hindustan Times. I track the aviation and railways ministry. I also write on travel trends. I cover the beats at the national level for the newspaper. Before being in Delhi, I have worked as a journalist in Mumbai as well. My hobbies include trekking and travelling.

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