Coronavirus: Indian Railways Shuts Down All Passenger Trains Till March 31
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In an attempt to curb and contain the coronavirus outbreak, India’s Railway Board on Sunday announced that “all passenger train services on Indian Railways including premium trains, mail and express trains, passenger trains, suburban trains, Kolkata Metro Rail, Konkan Railway, etc shall be cancelled till the midnight of 31 March, 2020”.
However, goods trains will continue operations ensuring supplies are not interrupted across the country. Separately, state governments will also suspend all Metro rail services and inter-state transport buses for the same period.
The unprecedented move by the national transporter comes on a day when most rail services were cancelled to observe ‘Janata Curfew’ as announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi wherein citizens are requested to not come out of homes from 7 am to 9 pm on March 22.
On average, 23 million passengers use the services offered by Indian Railways everyday, equivalent to the population of certain countries such as Australia. With more than 7,300 stations across the country and a route length of over 1,23,000 km, it is one of the largest railway systems in the world under a single management.
To avoid passenger inconvenience, full refund for all cancelled trains may be taken till June 21, according to the statement released by the transporter. Adequate arrangements shall be made to facilitate hassle-free refund to passengers, it said.
The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has been termed a pandemic by the World Health Organization and has claimed more than 13,000 lives across the world. In India, the number of confirmed cases has risen steadily over the last week, and is now nearing 350.
This move to stop movement via rail also comes as panic-stricken people have tried to flock to their hometowns, running the risk of getting infected or acting as potential carriers. There have already been a few reported cases of people who had been asked to stay on home quarantine being found travelling on trains.
Twelve people who recently travelled by two different trains have tested positive for the virus, the Railway Ministry said on Saturday.