Hyderabad: Train travelers from across the city had an infuriating time on Monday, when 200 regular train services were restored across the country.
Seven of the nine trains operated by South Central Railway (SCR) originated at Nampally and Secunderabad stations. Throughout the day, thousands of people arrived at Secunderabad and Nampally stations much ahead of schedule to prevent possible delays while clearing the health checks.
Though they were asked to report only 90 minutes before scheduled departure, many arrived three to four hours early. This caused massive logistical issues for the railways and police personnel, who had no option but to make the early arrivals wait in the sun in lines that stretched to half-a-kilometre in some cases.
At Secunderabad, all roads were barricaded from afar. All travellers had to walk to the station’s entrance, often with several heavy bags. Many were seen stopping after walking a few metres to catch their breath under the hot sun.
Almost all the travellers had a similar story to tell — they had been stuck in Hyderabad for far too long and wanted to get back home, no matter the risk. Srinivas, a Eluru native, said he was a teacher at a school in the city, but classes wouldn’t begin for at least a month.
“I have been living completely alone in Hyderabad. I simply want to go home. If school starts, I will come back. If they ask me to take online lessons, I will do that from Eluru,” he said. Another traveller, Shekar, an IT engineer, said he was going to Visakhapatnam so he can finally see his newborn.
In spite of the railways’ and governments’ requests for senior citizens and children to avoid travelling, there was no shortage of either. Laxmidevi, a woman in her 70s, had been living with her daughter for over five months, much more time than she had planned.
She boarded the Godavari Express to Visakhapatnam on Monday; her daughter and grandson accompanied her. When asked about the risk of travelling during a pandemic, her college-going grandson said, “She just doesn’t want to be here. She wants to go home, where she is comfortable.”
Meanwhile, officials tried their best to take the necessary precautions. No traveller was allowed on to the platform without thermal screening and a liberal spray of sanitiser on their palms. Markings were painted on platforms to promote social distancing. It was ensured that all of them wore masks.
Outside the station, things were much less under control. Travellers were allowed into the station only after the train preceding theirs had departed. This meant thousands of people had to stand close to each other in serpentine queues.
At around 4 pm, passengers of Godavari Express, had lined up as far as Alpha Hotel. Policemen struggled to make them maintain a safe distance. Laxmidevi and her family, for instance, came to Secunderabad at 1 pm, nearly five hours ahead of departure. With no seating arrangements, she struggled to stay upright and leaned against a railing.