COVID-19 impact: Kerala-bound travellers get train fit for the scrapyard

Updated: May 28, 2020, 16:57 IST | Rajendra B Aklekar | Mumbai

After much delay when it arrived, passengers were shocked to see compartments covered in dust and cobwebs, and the filthy toilets; Central Railway authorities promise inquiry

The dusty, torn seats on the train
The dusty, torn seats on the train

Cobwebs, dust and non-functional fans. The Thane-Kerala train that departed after much hassle on Monday was an example of how a train journey should not be. It was one of the worst instances of lack of coordination between the state government and the railways, as till the last minute, the number of designated passengers were not able to be gathered, with eventually the train leaving at half the capacity at around 600 passengers instead of 1,200.

Passengers who reached Thane station at 4 pm had to wait till 10 pm to board the train that was supposed to depart at 6 pm. By the time it chugged out of the station, it was past 11 pm.

'No social distancing'
"There was chaos everywhere. No one was observing social distancing. Initially, there were a couple of separate queues for our train, our names were taken down on a sheet of paper, and we were handed tickets. But the details of people who arrived later were not taken. And no one was thermally screened," said a passenger on-board the train, adding that they were given food packets, biscuits and a bottle of water while they waited.

In the compartment, many passengers found dust everywhere, cobwebs on the windows and a dirty, stinking toilet. "The train had cobwebs and thick layers of dust. Leave sanitation, it was not even cleaned for ages. It looked like some old train that was on its way to the scrap shop. We wiped the seats with paper. The seat covers are torn in several places. We have not touched the water taps in the toilet and are only using water bottles," the passenger added. On Wednesday, the train halted at certain stations and each compartment was given a carton of food packets and a bunch of water bottles.

Permissions delayed train
The train was first to leave on Sunday, but there were permission issues from the Kerala government, and the Thane collector requested the railways to cancel the train due to this.

On Tuesday, finally the train was set to leave again but enough passengers were not able to be gathered. The train was supposed to leave for 6pm, but by that time just 450 passengers had arrived. The train was brought on the platform at 10pm and eventually left Thane at 11:30pm.

Central Railway officials said they will launch an inquiry into what went wrong about cleanliness. Chief Public Relations Officer Shivaji Sutar said, "The local authorities were not just able to gather enough people for the train to leave on time, leading to a number of issues. It was originally scheduled to leave at 6pm, but could not do so due to lack of enough passengers. Regarding cleanliness and the condition of the train, we take all precautions before placing the rake on platform. Will inquire about this particular issue and take necessary action."

6pm
Time the train was supposed to leave

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