There is a slow but steady increase in the number of passengers patronising the limited number of trains being operated on a select few routes in Karnataka by South Western Railway (SWR).
Though the passenger load is nowhere near that in the pre-COVID-19 period, the gradual unlocking under way across the country and the inevitability of travel forced by circumstances have resulted in an uptick in numbers.
A case in point is the number of passengers who travel from Mysuru to Bengaluru by the COVID special train no. 06504, which was among the first passenger trains to be introduced as part of the limited services introduced from the last week of May.
The number of passengers during the initial few days varied from a low of 59 passengers (on May 22) to a maximum of 285. The occupancy rate in a train with a passenger carrying capacity of nearly 1,020 hovered below 10%. However, by the last week of July, the occupancy rate showed an improvement and peaked at 43.62% when 445 passengers were ferried from Mysuru to Bengaluru on July 27.
Statistics pertaining to daily passenger travel compiled by the railway authorities indicate that there was a slump on certain days. But during August, the passenger occupancy rate reached a high of 77.84% and a train with a total capacity of 1,020 passengers carried 794 persons on August 17. It reached a new high after the unlocking on August 24, when the occupancy rate increased to 91.47% and 933 passengers travelled on the section, which almost matched the total number of commuters who used to travel during the pre-COVID-19 period.
The number of passengers travelling in the return direction from Bengaluru to Mysuru also indicates a steady increase in August. The train service between Yeshwantpur and Shivamogga town also shows a similar trend, and 958 passengers booked and travelled between the two cities on August 24. For a train with a carrying capacity of 972 passengers, the occupancy rate was 98.56%.
The services from Bengaluru to Hubballi and Bengaluru to Belagavi have also registered a significant rise in passenger traffic. Hence, seven more trains will be introduced by the SWR with effect from September 12, including another service between Mysuru and Bengaluru apart from six long-distance trains of which two services — to Jaipur and Solapur — will originate from Mysuru. This will take the total number of trains operated by the SWR to 30, as against the nearly 380 pairs of trains that used to run in the pre-COVID-19 times.