After months of being locked down at home, I decided to travel to New Delhi from my hometown city Varanasi via train. I had boarded flights for the route Mumbai to Varanasi and Varanasi to Mumbai as soon as the domestic travel were resumed after lockdown was lifted. But this time, I boarded a train to New Delhi to travel further to Mussoorie for my birthday. Here’s an experience of my train journey during COVID-19 crisis.
Key Highlights Before Travel
- Stay updated about the train schedule and convenience. This way we can time our travel to the station as per our preference.
- Choose to make contactless reservations and carry an e-ticket/e-pass.
- Carry sufficient travel needs in a separate bag like masks, gloves, hand sanitiser, soaps and disinfectant wipes.
- Carry your own linen if you’re travelling in sleeper coaches.
- Carry your own food and water bottles. In case, you opt to buy at railway station or while travelling in a train, try contactless pay and proper sanitisation.
- Carry your ticket ID and install Arogya Setu App on your mobile phones well in advance.
Key Highlights During Travel
- Avoid touching surfaces such as elevator buttons, benches, or any machines. In case, you do touch any surface, wash your hands with soap immediately or use a sanitiser. Otherwise, it can always be a great idea to use your disinfectant wipes to clean the surface before touching them.
- Follow social distancing norms. Stay at least 6 feet away from other passengers and commuters. Follow signs put out by railway authorities at stations and trains that indicates where to stand or sit, where to exit, or queue up, etc.
- Avoid removing your mask unless necessary.
- Wash your hands with soap and sanitise if you use public washrooms at railway station or while travelling in trains.
- Avoid moving unnecessarily as it will increase the risk of infection. It always feel good to wander around and pick up snacks from hawkers and stretch your legs. Unfortunately, at this COVID-19 crisis, it is a bad idea to wander unnecessarily as you are safest sitting in your own seats.
Varanasi to New Delhi
It was in the first week of October that I decided to pack my bags and go for a hill station trip on my birthday while I was staying with my family in Varanasi. I felt quite thrilled to go for a vacation after such a long time. And the only way possible to reach Mussoorie at this point of time was to travel via New Delhi. So, I booked my reservation for Vande Bharat Express train that starts at 3 PM from Varanasi railway station. This train is the most convenient option for those who want to spend less number of hours in train while travelling this route. This train almost takes 8 hours and reach New Delhi railway station at 11 PM on the same day. Its only stoppages are Prayagraj and Kanpur.
As soon as I reached Varanasi railway station, I noticed ghostly calmness there which was quite surprising to me. Being raised in Varanasi city, I’ve seen how bustly and chaotic this railway station is. It was quite different this time due to pandemic as there was an eerie silence all around. There were signs and circle marks everywhere at the station that gave instructions where to stand and queue up while entering the station and boarding train, this was in order to maintain social distancing. There was no crowd at all at my time of visit so we directly boarded our scheduled train at platform no. 1. As soon as I entered my coach, I witnessed many people had already boarded their allotted seats well in advance and had their masks on. I felt little relaxed witnessing this discipline of commuters. Just as I boarded, I also witnessed railways staff sanitising and cleaning the berths and windows. I was very excited to reach the destination.
Trains are not providing any linen, so do carry your own linen and blankets in case you are travelling in sleeper coaches.
Vande Bharat started at its right time which is 3 PM and I bid farewell to Varanasi through my window seat. As our train moved littlle further, I took out my packed lunch from home and started eating. I was very hungry and planned my lunch to have it on train so to catch my train on time. Many food vendors were already strolling on our coach that were selling packaged food like Ready to Eat meals, tea/coffee, chips, biscuits, cold drinks and water bottles. I sanitised my hand properly every time when I was eating anything.
Vande Barat Express train used to provide set meals like breakfast, lunch and dinner as per schedule before coronavirus. In its resume during pandemic, it is not providing any and only have hawkers selling Ready to Eat Meals available for sale. It is advisable that you carry your own food on your train travel or eat well enough beforehand
Washroom was not clean and I used it only once. I was little skeptical of using the train’s washroom. I also noticed hand sanitiser dispensers mounted across all doorways, this was very mindful of the railway authorities. Few minutes passed, Travelling Ticket Examiner (TTE) came and checked our tickets. However, no one checked Arogya Setu App or my temperature on our journey. Making me little suspicious of this travel. I maintained my safety measures at an extreme level. I made sure that I sanitised my hands every time I ate or used my laptop, mobile and other camera gears. I sanitised when I bought some food items from the vendor. In short, I was deliberately sanitising at every time of any surface exposure. I never took out my mask except when I was eating. I avoided lingering here and there unless necessary.
I reached New Delhi railway station at the right time at 11 PM. I noticed only few people there too. And as I exited, nobody asked my whereabouts or where I was travelling to. We booked our cab and went straight ahead to our place of stay in Delhi.
New Delhi to Dehradun
Likewise, I would like to address my personal experience of my train travel from the next day to travel further to Dehradun in order to finally reach Mussoorie. Along with my tickets booked for New Delhi, I’d also booked my ticket for Dehradun in the train ‘Kota Dehradun Special’ to be boarded from Nizamuddin railway station In Delhi. It departs at 11:45 PM and reaches Dehradun at 5:40 AM in the morning. So we took off again with this train.
As soon as I entered Nizamuddin railway station, my temperature and Arogya setu App was checked this time. There was utter silence at the station but I noticed some railway staffs on duty there. Likewise, there were dark patches of circles marked everywhere at the station. We boarded our sleeper coaches on right time. I took my linen immediately soon as I boarded my seat since it was the night time and I had to sleep. I sanitised everything and went to sleep few moments later. However, I did not notice any vendors selling any tea/coffee and food items in this train.
The next morning, we reached around 6:30 AM in Dehradun. As we exited, there was a long queue of the commuters near the exit gate. I also queued up along considering a distance of at least 6 feet from the other commuter in the queue. On my exit, I was asked my name, my phone number, my place of travelling and my father’s name. I mentioned that I was travelling to Mussoorie from there and the number of days that I was going to stay in Mussoorie.
So, this was my overall experience of my train travel during COVID on these two different routes. The journey was safe and I had a safe travel. However, I would like to point out that one should be cautious enough on their own and avoid doing anything that may risk infection in the train travel during this crisis. The primary measures that one has to definitely take is always wear mask and keep distance from one another. And be mindful of your actions.
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