Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday said that the bookings for passenger trains at around 1.7 lakh common service centres across the country would resume in a few days, adding that the Centre is currently studying the possibility of developing a protocol, PTI reported.

“We will announce resumption of more trains; it is time to take India towards normalcy,” Goyal said during a conversation with his party colleague and Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Sambit Patra. “Bookings also to resume at ticket counters of stations in next two to three days. We have to ensure that there are no large crowds gathering at counters to book tickets, so we are studying the situation and devising a protocol towards it.”

The common counters make the booking accessible to those in remote locations where the availability of computers and internet is negligible or absent.

Trains were stopped, along with flight operations, in March after the Centre imposed a nationwide lockdown to rein in the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this month, special trains started running to transport stranded migrant workers. On Wednesday, the Railways also issued a list of 100 pairs of trains that will operate from June 1. The railways said these trains will have both air-conditioned and non-air conditioned coaches.

Goyal said four lakh passengers have purchased tickets within 2.5 hours after bookings were opened for the trains that will begin operations from June 1 onwards. “People have also started reverse bookings to come back to work,” he added.

He also praised Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath and Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani for their cooperation with the railways in running the special trains. Meanwhile, he said only 27 trains have been able to reach West Bengal, while till May 8 or 9, only two trains could reach there. The minister also pointed out that Jharkhand has allowed only 96 trains while Rajasthan has so far received 35 trains.

“Even if we asked for permission to run the train, the home minister wrote a letter, even after that a list of eight trains was received by West Bengal,” Goyal added. “I expect all states to allow their people to come to their homes and help us reach them by driving trains.”

The Centre on Tuesday said the consent of home states of migrants would no longer be required for the special trains transporting them. The schedule of the trains, including stoppages and destination, will also be finalised by the railways based on the states’ requirements.

After 56 days of the lockdown, the government also urged states to operate more special trains to transport stranded migrant workers by “proactive coordination” with the Railway ministry. It also said that the local administration should designate resting points on routes where migrants are known to be passing through, with adequate facilities for sanitation, food and healthcare.

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