The train service between Budgam in central Kashmir and Banihal in Jammu region resumed partially on Thursday after remaining suspended for 52 days due to COVID-19 pandemic.
However, train service between Budgam and Baramulla in north Kashmir remained suspended, a railway official said this morning.
The train service between Budgam and Banihal partially resumed today. Only four trains — two in the morning and as many in the afternoon — will ply on the track, he said.
He said trains will continue to remain off the track on Budagm-Baramulla route till further orders. The decision to restore train service on this track will be taken after further reviewing the situation, he added.
The first train left this morning from Banihal and reached Badgam via Nowgam, Srinagar station as per schedule.
The passengers waiting at Nowgam, Srinagar station said they are delighted with the resumption of train service though partially. Besides being time consuming, travel from Srinagar to Banihal by road costs Rs 500 per person whereas the same journey by train costs just Rs 50.
Train service had gained popularity in the Kashmir valley for being reasonable, fast and safe against other mode of transport, they said and demanded early resumption of Badgam to Baramulla train service.
The railway authorities have made proper arrangements for the passengers. Any passenger without mask was not being allowed to enter the railway station. Similarly, no ticket for a passenger without mask, railway officials said. However, this correspondent saw passengers maintaining social distancing and adopting Standard Operating Procedures (SOP).
They said passengers are traveling from Srinagar to Banihal and later by road to Jammu. Similarly passengers from Jammu were also traveling from Banihal to Srinagar by train to save money and time, they added.
Train service on 137-km-long Banihal-Baramulla route comprising 17 stations, was suspended on May 10 to curtail the spread of unabated rise in the number of COVID-19 cases.
The partial restoration comes weeks after the administration in Kashmir eased COVID restrictions following significant decline in the number of infection cases.
The railway service on Baramulla-Banihal track was partially resumed on February 22 this year after remaining suspended for over 11 months due to the pandemic lock down last year. The railway authorities had ordered suspension of train services between Banihal and Baramulla in the Kashmir division in March last year in view of outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic in the Union Territory. The service was initially suspended till March 31.
But, the duration of suspension was extended several times due to no dwindling of COVID-19 cases.
In 2020, only a special train run of Kashmir’s first Luxury Glass-roofed AC train was held in September last year between Baramulla and Banihal for a documentary that was filmed on the 137-km-long rail link, which before the restrictions used to ferry over 30,000 commuters every day.
In order to make train journey in Kashmir valley comfortable and exciting, the Northern Railways in 2018 introduced the first Air-Conditioned train fitted with a glass-rooftop and bigger windowpanes for sightseeing.
However, the full-fledged operation of the special coach was not possible, first due to unrest post abrogation of special status of J&K on August 5 in 2019 and later due to COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.