Coronavirus outbreak: For first time in 167 years, passenger trains will not run on railway anniversary

Updated: Apr 15, 2020, 11:12 IST | Rajendra B Aklekar | Mumbai

City's lifeline kept ticking during two World Wars; also hours after 2006, 2008 attacks

Representational picture
Representational picture

For the first time in its history, Indian Railways will not run passenger trains on its birthday. In a day, as Indian Railways completes 167 years after its first run on April 16, 1853, it would be for the first time that no passenger trains will be running on it due to the lockdown.

"Never ever in its history, there has been such a long interruption of services. Not during the World Wars, not during the 1974 Railway Strike or any other national calamity or natural disaster. Even in Mumbai, services have never been halted for such a long period during the terror strike, bomb blasts or the monsoon. This is a complete shut long shut down of passenger services and is unprecedented in history," a IR spokesperson said.

"The 1974 railway strike was an exception because no manpower was available to run trains as employees were angry and trade unions were negotiating, but then too during the end days, essential freights ended up running. It was May 8 to May 27, 1974," he added.

"I remember the July 2006 series train bombings. There had been extensive damage to overhead wires and trains. But we could not afford to keep mum. We got back the services on track by 10:45pm, that is almost within four hours of the incident," a senior officer working on Western Railway in Mumbai recalled.

A picture of outstation trains parked at CSMT on March 23. Pic/Suresh Karkera
A picture of outstation trains parked at CSMT on March 23. Pic/Suresh Karkera

Recalling recent times, he said rains and flooding led to submerging of rail tracks suspension of services beyond Nallasopara for some time a few years ago, but services were on in other sectors in the worst of monsoon.

The terror attack on Mumbai CSMT in 2008 was another such incident which led to panic and suspension of services for a few hours. "Around 50 people were killed and over 100 injured at the station premises in one of the deadliest attacks on the city, but we took the situation and services were restored early in the morning," a CR official recalled.

"But with the extended complete lockdown now, passenger railway trains in India will now remain closed for over a month and that will remain a milestone in the 167 year old history of the monolith. We are passing through unseen and unexperienced times," another official said

But Indian Railways has not given up its spirit and always lived up during such occasions. During the World Wars, Indian Railways made ammunition and military equipment at its workshops, railway buildings had turned into hospitals. During the Indo-Pak war, Indian Railways had worked 24x7 to keep the supply chains running and now during the times of Covid2019, Indian Railway workshops are churning out medical equipment, isolation coaches and its buildings turning into quarantine centres, standing up to the crisis.

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