Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed says there will be bar on elderly wishing to ride on trains
Train operations will resume across Pakistan from Wednesday, announced Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed on Monday, adding that Prime Minister Imran Khan had approved the measure, provided strict social distancing guidelines were followed.
“No one will be allowed at train stations without a ticket,” he said, explaining some of the measures being adopted to prevent a large number of people crowding train stations and imperiling their health.
“Nearly 7,000 police officers have been deployed at [train stations in] Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, and Quetta and an emergency has been imposed,” he said, adding that action would be taken against the division head of any area where violation of SOPs was reported.
He said the Railways staff would conduct a “rehearsal” tomorrow (Tuesday) to ascertain how best to implement the SOPs provided by the government.
Addressing a news conference in Islamabad, he said that there would be no age barrier on people who could travel via trains—in contrast to SOPs issued for road public transport services barring elderly and children.
Rasheed said in the initial phase a limited number of routes would resume, adding that 15 trains on both up/down circuits would be operational until May 31. “If the conditions are stable in the month of May, then all train services will resume across the country from June 1,” he said.
“We suffered losses of Rs. 5 billion/month due to the closure of train services,” Rasheed said, as he explained why there had been no change to ticket pricing. “We have not reduced the fares because the number of passengers has been cut by 50 percent,” he said.
Pakistan last week eased a majority of lockdown restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, with Prime Minister Imran Khan saying it was necessary to reduce the suffering of the needy. The governments of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa also announced the resumption of public transport services such as buses and vans from today (Monday).
The railways minister had on Sunday admitted that if trains were not resumed by Wednesday, the department would be forced to refund Rs. 240 million in prepaid tickets to passengers who had reserved seats for Eid—a traditionally busy time for travel in Pakistan.