Indicating weak ridership after the partial lockdown inflicted by the Karnataka government, the South Western Railways (SWR) has canceled 72 trains, most of which ran on suburban and intra-State ways. In the Bengaluru unit, 38 express trains and 18 DEMU/MEMU trains have been discontinued. Some of the cancellations involve trains operating to Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) as well as suburban services from Bengaluru city to Marikuppam, Hosur, and others. Chief PRO of SWR Aneesh Hegde said trains with ridership under 30% had been canceled transitorily.
“When the lockdown was imposed, there were no restrictions on train services. However, ridership dropped drastically on certain routes. A decision on resumption of services will be taken after the lockdown is lifted,” he said. Divisional Railway Manager Ashok Kumar Verma aimed out that other railways have canceled trains such as Mysuru-Chennai Shatabdi Express.
“Due to rising cases, there is stress on using our resources. Wherever there is demand, we operate special trains. For example, we have operated many trains between Bengaluru and Danapur,” Mr. Verma said. However, the determination to discontinue services, particularly to KIA and rural stations, has not gone down well with rail activists.
Rail activist Sanjeev Dyamannavar said: “The railways should have extended with airport services for the benefit of people working there. Administrators could have explored the plausibility of operating express trains to the airport with restricted stops at Kengeri, Bengaluru, and Baiyappanahalli as tracks do not have much traffic. It could have helped people working at the cargo division of the airport and air passengers.”
The SWR had started train services with a stop at KIA in the first week of January, patronage continued inadequate. This is the second time the SWR is discontinuing services to the airport. In March, services had been discontinued for over 20 days to facilitate maintenance work.