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Workmen special runs jam-packed, social distancing norms flouted

Social distancing norms have been given a go by in the workmen special train operated by Southern Railway (SR) to facilitate transportation of government staff on essential duty during the lock down. Employees, including some staff of the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital, were found breathing down each other’s neck like in the pre-COVID days.

Workmen special runs jam-packed, social distancing norms flouted
Passengers standing closely together inside the special train


A video of the workmen special captured by a railway employee from aboard the train on July 1 showed the train coaches jampacked with some standing passengers rubbing shoulders with one another. Southern Railway operates two trains each in the morning and evening. The first train leaves MMC at 5.55 pm and another over two hours later after 8 pm.

“In the absence of buses and cabs, this is the only mode of transport,” said a railway employee at the headquarters who has been travelling by the workmen special regularly during the lockdown.

“The management was operating only one train at the beginning. The second train was introduced owing to employees' pressure. Even that is insufficient. Officers had increased the number of coaches from five to 12 after realising that it is crowded. Attributing yesterday’s crowd to the first day of the month is unfair. The train is regularly crowded. Some RGGGH staff also use it, increasing the risk of infection,” said a clerk at the headquarters unwilling to be named, recalling an instance where at least 40 passengers of the workmen special were traced after an employee of RGGGH who travelled by the workmen special tested COVID positive more than a month ago.

When asked, B Guganesan, chief PRO of SR said, “Due to intense lockdown, employees are unable to travel by their own vehicle. Hence, the workmen special is crowded.” Adding that they were examining the possibility of introducing another special train, the CPRO said the train was crowded on Wednesday because it was the day of increment in Railway.

“From July 1, the basic pay will increase. There was some confusion among employees. Some felt that they must be on duty or their chance of increment would be affected by working from home. So, many employees turned up for duty yesterday. Nevertheless, we will observe and examine the possibility of operating another train,” he added.

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