Covid-19 lockdown: India’s longest-running passenger train is the last to complete its run

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The Vivek Express, which runs once a week in either direction, has 56 halts on its journey from Diburgarh to Kanyakumari (Source: Twitter/GMSRailway)

When the Kanyakumari-bound Vivek Express, the country's longest-running passenger train chugged off from platform number 1 of the Dibrugarh railway station in Assam on the night of March 22 (Saturday), India was hours away from observing the 14-hour 'Janata curfew' call of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a bid to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

And by the time it reached its destination Wednesday morning, after traversing through eight states over 4,200 kilometres, India had literally come to a halt.

The Vivek Express, which takes an astonishing 82 hours and 50 minutes to cover the distance between Dibrugarh in the far northeast to Kanyakumari in the south, was the last train on the Indian Railways network to complete its run. The Railways Saturday had announced that all its passenger services would be suspended till March 31 as part of preventive measures to check the spread of the coronavirus infection.

While all services from Sunday stood cancelled, the Railways allowed the trains that had already started off from their originating points to reach their destinations. Vivek Express was one of them.

A Southern Railways official said the train reached Kanyakumari at 9:36 am Wednesday, a few minutes ahead of schedule. By the time it reached Kerala, it had just around 15 passengers, including a few natives of the state, and some Railway staff.

All passengers were offloaded at the Thrissur railway station and will be kept in isolation for a few days to check for signs of the infection. Throughout most of its journey, the train ran at less than 50 per cent occupancy.

The Vivek Express, which runs once a week in either direction, has 56 halts on its journey from Dibrugarh to Kanyakumari and travels through Assam, Nagaland, West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The train is part of a chain of four express trains, all of which are named Vivek, which were begun by then Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee as part of the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda.

As part of the nationwide lockdown, local and long-distance passenger operations have been suspended till March 31. Freight trains will continue to run across the length and breadth of the country. On an average, the national transporter carries 2.3 crore passengers on 13,523 trains on any given day.

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