The Indian Railways on Tuesday said all passenger train services, including premium trains, mail/express trains, suburban trains and the Kolkata metro rail, will continue to remain suspended till May 3, 2020. In addition, advance reservation, including e-tickets, will not be allowed “till further notice”.
The temporary ban on domestic and international flights on Tuesday was also extended until the midnight of May 3.
This means that international flights would be barred for a total of 42 days and domestic flights for 40 days by May 3. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) banned international flights from March 23 and the ban for domestic flights came into effect two days later, that is, March 25.
The suspension follows the announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to extend the nationwide lockdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic by almost three weeks.
For all the cancelled trains, full refund will be given to the passengers. Online facility for cancellation of tickets will remain functional. The Railways added that a full refund will also be given to those passengers who cancel their advance bookings for trains that have not been cancelled yet “as a goodwill measure”.
For passengers who had bookings on the cancelled trains, refunds will be automatically remitted by the Railways online. However, for a booking done over counters, refunds can be taken up till July 31, 2020.
“Resumption of train services as may be warranted in consideration of public safety, keeping in view the emergent situation, shall be announced in due course,” the Railways’ statement said, directing Zonal Railways to ensure strict adherence to the instructions.
“All counters for booking of rail journey tickets for reserved/unreserved travel at railway stations and outside railway station premises shall remain closed up to 2400 hrs of 3rd May 2020,” it added.
However, to ensure essential supplies in various parts of the country, movement of goods and parcel trains will continue.
The government is yet to announce measures for repatriation of Indians stranded around the world . While there have been demands from within the aviation sector to stop airlines from conducting advance booking until the lockdown is lifted, so that passengers don’t find their money stuck with airlines, the government is yet to release any guidelines on this issue.
However, there is no restriction on cargo flights. The government has taken the help of passenger airlines like Air India, IndiGo and SpiceJet, apart from BlueDart, for the transportation of essential medical supplies within the country as well as to Shanghai, Hong Kong and Colombo.
Following the announcement, IndiGo announced that it would resume flights from May 4. It said it will be initially operating with a slightly curtailed capacity, which it will increase in the subsequent months, including to international routes.
Several international airlines as well as Air India have also been operating special charter flights to help foreign citizens in India return to their countries.
Former Railway Board Chairman Ashwini Lohani at a video conference of the travel and tourism industry said, “Railways stopped for one or two days when Gandhi ji died. After that, during the railway strike of 1974, in some pockets, Railway services were affected. But this is the first time [after the assassination of Gandhi] that Railways has stopped across the country.”