Coronavirus outbreak: Railways ready with post-lockdown plan

Updated: Apr 10, 2020, 07:12 IST | Rajendra B Aklekar | Mumbai

No food on board, curb on senior citizens' travel, compulsory masks among ideas floated by officials

Railway police patrol Churchgate station during the lockdown. File pic
Railway police patrol Churchgate station during the lockdown. File pic

While there is no news yet on what the future is of the nationwide lockdown, there are mixed reactions to when and how to actually start train services once the government gives a go-ahead. Railway officials are ready with a plan that involves marking danger zones, curbs on senior citizens' travel, making masks compulsory for all passengers, no food on trains, and limited halts.

Railway officials said that there was mixed opinion from all zones on the post-lockdown opening of railways at a video conference chaired by the railway board chairman, Vinod Yadav.

Yadav indicated that the government was thinking of dividing the country into three zones – red, yellow and green – depending on the number of cases. In the red zone, no transport services will be introduced, yellow will have restricted services and green will have no restrictionon the number of services.

Given the present situation, most metro cities, except maybe Kolkata, are likely to be in the red zones and that it may therefore not be possible to start or terminate any train from and to Mumbai, Delhi, Secunderabad, Chennai, and Bangalore. It was, therefore, suggested not to introduce any services till the situation improves, definitely not before April 30.

Some railway officials suggested operating within the state boundaries.Yadav said that the railways should get in touch with state governments to figure out their requirements.

In addition to this, as a means of social distancing, the railways plan to not issue any tickets for the middle berth in AC and non-AC three-tier bogies.

Other guidelines include no linen or food on trains till cases start reducing and running only special trains.

Thermal screening of passengers at all entry points and curbs on travel for passengers above 60 were also discussed.

Passengers not wearing masks might also be fine or asked to deboard. The railways are also mulling imposing 'no unreserved travel' since it might become difficult to trace such passengers in case of a COVID-19 case.

Coaches ready for isolation wards

So far, 250 coaches on CR have been converted into quarantine wards, with a total of 482 to be done. CR is also trying to make approximately 5,000 PPEs and about 30 of the 50 proposed oxygen cylinder trolleys have been made so far by the Parel workshop.

This will facilitate railway hospitals to carry medical equipment from one place to another. Western Railway has targeted to undertake 460 coaches and the coaches selected are non-AC sleeper and general second-class ones. Of these, 170 will be undertaken by the Mumbai division, 45 by Vadodara, 75 by Ratlam, 70 by Ahmedabad, 20 by Rajkot and 80 by the Bhavnagar division.

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