India makes first moves to restart its public transport system
Amy Kazmin in New Delhi
India is taking the first tentative step to reviving suspended public transport services this week, as Indian Railways restarts a handful of long-distance train services linking the capital, New Delhi, to 15 other cities.
The new trains — which will start in New Delhi and run to major cities including Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and then return — will start running from Tuesday, with online bookings opening on Monday afternoon.
But they represent just a miniscule fraction of the 14,300 trains that typically carry 30m passengers a day, highlighting India’s gradual approach to easing its lockdown.
India will also continue to operate up to 300 special trains a day exclusively for migrant workers who have been trapped for weeks without work or wages in big cities and industrial areas since the lockdown began.
Over the past week, several hundred thousand migrants have returned to their home states, on the first passenger trains to operate since March 22.
India suspended all domestic public transport services — including flights, long-distance and suburban trains, urban metro services, and local buses and even taxi services — in late March, as part of its draconian lockdown imposed to stop the spread of coronavirus.
The lack of long train and bus services to get them home after the lockdown prompted thousands of desperate migrants to undertake arduous treks on foot or bicycle to try to get back home.
As part of its gradual easing over the last week, India has also permitted taxis and local buses to operate in areas with few or no coronavirus cases.