The daily hustle bustle returned to Secunderabad and Nampally railway stations in Hyderabad after more than two months with the operation of daily special trains from Monday to ferry thousands of passengers to their destinations.
Other stations in both the Telugu states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh were also abuzz with activity with the resumption of train services.
Hyderabad-New Delhi Telangana Express was the first to chug out of the Nampally station at 6.25 a.m. with the South Central Railway (SCR) authorities ensuring strict adherence to the guidelines prescribed to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Secunderabad-Danapur Express departed from Secunderabad at 9.35 a.m. while Secunderabad-Guntur Golconda Express left at 12.20 p.m.
The SCR officials with the help of the Railway Protection Force (RPF) and city police made large-scale arrangements to handle the passengers and ensure hassle free boarding.
South Central Railway is operating nine pairs of trains: Hyderabad-Mumbai CST (Hussain Sagar Express), Secunderabad-Howrah (Falaknuma Express), Hyderabad-New Delhi (Telangana Express), Secunderabad-Danapur (Danapur Express), Secunderabad-Guntur (Golconda Express), Nizamabad-Tirupati (Rayalaseema Express), Hyderabad-Visakhapatnam (Godavari Express), H.S. Nanded-Amritsar (Sachkhand Express) and Secunderabad-Nizamuddin Bi-Weekly (Duronto Express) which will run on Thursdays and Sundays.
In addition to this, five pairs of trains will pass through the SCR. They are Mumbai CST-Bhubaneswar (Konark Express), Mumbai CST-Bengaluru (Udyan Express), Danapur-Bengaluru (Sanghamitra Express), Visakhapatnam-New Delhi (AP Express) and Howrah-Yasvantpur Duronto Express.
The trains will pass through both the Telugu states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. While authorities in Telangana are allowing trains to halt at all designated stops, Andhra Pradesh has restricted the number to 18 in view of the constraints in screening the passengers for Covid-19 and quarantine them.
Officials said 22 trains originating, terminating or passing through Andhra Pradesh had 71 stoppages but Chief Secretary Nilam Sawhney wrote to Railway Board to restrict the halt points to 18.
Passengers only with confirmed reserved tickets and wearing masks were allowed to enter the stations while maintaining social distancing. Authorities had provided clear foot markings outside the station building and also on the platform to ensure this.
The passengers were allowed to board the trains only after thermal screening. Automatic thermal scanners were installed for the purpose. Passengers found symptomatic of Covid-19 during the screening will not be allowed to travel and in such case, full refund of ticket fare will be provided to them.
The cameras with scanners were also installed for the passengers to show their e-tickets. Officials said they also provided automatic mist hand sanitisers for the passengers.
Though passengers were asked to arrive at least 90 minutes before the departure time of the train, long queues were seen at both Secunderabad and Nampally stations even three hours before the scheduled departures. The city police also deployed its personnel to ensure adherence to the guidelines.
The IRCTC canteens were opened at the stations only with take-away service. Officials said passengers can either bring their own food or buy the ready-to-eat meals from the IRCTC.
Trains were not equipped with linen, blankets or curtains while three Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) kits were provided on each train as a precautionary measure.
Railways has advised people with co-morbidities like hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, immune deficiency conditions, pregnant women, children below the age of 10 years and persons above 65 years of age to avoid travel, except if it is essential.