Indian Railways: Arrive early or risk missing your train

It will soon take you longer to board your train in India – but for good reasons. Source: Shutterstock.

THE argument that India’s railway system lacks security and that traveling by train within the densely populated country is not safe is a long-standing one.

Although the best way to travel in India is by train, especially when traveling a long distance, it is also a major breeding ground for crimes.

There have been cases of snatch thefts at railway stations, petty thefts on board, bandit attacks and murders, and even bomb blasts.

“Government data show that cases of on-train robbery have grown from 382 in 2003 to 1,096 in 2013, while murders have gone up from 246 to 270 — suggesting all kinds of criminals, not just terrorists, have a free run of trains,” The Hindu reported.

In particular, on May 1, 2014, twin bomb blasts in a Bangalore-Guwahati Express train at Chennai railway station killed one woman passenger and injured 14 others.

Immediately after the blasts, throngs of frightened passengers with luggage in tow shoved their way through a door-frame metal-detector, pushing through the police who were trying to search passengers’ bags.

“The bombing of the train has once again underlined that India’s economic lifeline — its railway system — is a security nightmare. The bad news is: there isn’t much that can be done,” The Hindu wrote.

Source: Shutterstock.

Security was later tightened across the major crowded areas of the state. A high-security alert was also declared in Delhi. But besides that, not much else was done.

“Look, there are more than 13 million passengers transiting railway stations every day. How on earth do you search all their luggage, and frisk all of them?” The Hindu quoted one Railway Protection Force (RPF) officer as saying.

Fortunately, the RPF has put a couple of things in motion to make rail travel much less of a nightmare.

Airport-like security will be implemented at more than 200 railway stations in the country, with passengers and visitors going through checks before accessing platforms. This means you will now have to arrive about 20 minutes before your train departs.

What does this new security steps, part of a security plan by the Integrated Security System, entail?

There will be random security checks, including body checks and luggage scanning, at each entry point.

Source: Shutterstock.

This is why passengers need to be in the stations 20 minutes ahead of departure to facilitate this security process. Failing which, there will be a risk of missing the train.

Stations will also exercise access control by limiting entry and exit points for better monitoring.

The security system will see CCTV cameras installed in stations as well as real-time facial recognition software to identify known offenders and alert the RPF command center.

Also part of the layered security measures is checking passengers from point of entry in the station.

“An automatic vehicle scanner has been recommended for gates from where vehicle enter the station premises. For explosives detection, sniffer dogs and vapor detectors have been recommended,” an RPF official told the Hindustan Times.

The measures have already been implemented at the Hubli station in Karnataka and Prayagraj (previously Allahabad), where the Indian Railways is expecting a large footfall due to the Kumbh Mela which begins on Jan 15, 2019.

It is scheduled to be rolled out in 202 stations, include railway stations in all Metro cities and state capital, after the initial round of testing.