Kochi: Amid the COVID scare, Indian Railway has instructed the various zones to cancel the trains that have less than 30% passengers or bookings. The southern railway has already cancelled the summer special trains as they didn't have many bookings. It was followed by the Kollam – Sengottai passenger, Kollam – Punalur passenger and Punalur – Kollam passenger as well.
Trivandrum-Kannur Jan Shatabdi Express (12082) has been cancelled from March 20 till March 30. Kannur- Trivandrum Jan Shatabdi Express and Coimbatore- Mangalore Intercity Express (22610) have been cancelled from March 21 till March 31. Mangalore- Thiruvananthapuram Malabar Express (16630) and Thiruvannathapuram- Mangalore Malabar Express (16629) will not run till March 31 and April 1 respectively.
Ernakulam - Madgaon Weekly SF Express has also stopped its service. More trains are expected to be cancelled, the Railways said.
Meanwhile, the Guruvayur – Punalur passenger would run till Kollam. It has been instructed to cancel the services till March 31. Other than the migrant labourers who return to their home states, the trains do not have many other passengers. Those who had booked tickets have cancelled them after more COVID19 cases were reported in Chennai and Bengaluru.
The video footages showing the empty compartments of the Mangaluru – Coimbatore intercity have become viral on the social media. On Wednesday, there was only a single passenger in three consecutive compartments. In the meantime, the trains from the North Indian states to Kerala are fairly packed.
The number of commuters has plummeted after many companies have asked their staff to work from home. The trains that run day time services in Kerala are the worst-hit. Most railway stations would be empty after the rush of those who are returning home gets over.
Meanwhile, the migrant labourers are struggling to get tickets to return to their home states. As Guwahati and Patna trains do not run daily services, most of them depend on the Chennai trains.
The Indian Railways cancelled 84 trains in total, which will not operate between March 20 and March 31, in view of low occupancy and the novel coronavirus pandemic, officials said.
With this, the total number of cancelled trains has climbed to 155.
Railway officials said the trains were identified last night and the decision will be effective from March 20 until March 31.
"All passengers having tickets in these 155 trains are being informed about it individually. No cancellation fee will be taken for these trains. Passengers will get 100-per cent refund," an official said.
The national transporters has also issued a set of guidelines to zonal headquarters for its catering staff, stating no employee having fever, cough, runny nose or difficulty in breathing "should be deployed in the business of food handling on the Indian Railways".
The novel coronavirus cases in India rose to 169 on Thursday after 18 fresh cases were reported from various parts of the country, according to the Health Ministry.
The cases include 25 foreign nationals -- 17 from Italy, 3 from the Philippines, two from the UK, one each belonging to Canada, Indonesia and Singapore.
The figure also includes three deaths reported from Delhi, Karnataka and Maharashtra so far.