As the country enters the eleventh day of the 21-day lockdown, the Indian Railways in its preparations to start functioning after the lockdown, which ends on April 14, is now mulling at many proposals to be followed. Like making passengers wear masks, using the Arogya Setu app to check health status of the travellers before allowing them and encouraging social distancing on board.
While there is no official confirmation as to when the passenger services, which were suspended in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown, will be resumed, officials said it is likely to be done in a phased manner after the green signal from the government.
According to the officials, any decision is likely to be taken in the coming week on how to restore services.
The railways, has discussed the option of resuming services only on specific approval of each train from the Railway Board. Suggestions for phase-wise planning have to be provided by the zone to the board.
“These are sensitive times and we are not looking in terms of revenue generation for now. The focus is on passenger safety and to ensure that the disease does not spread. Trains will run in due course, once the government gives us the green signal. However as of now, we have not taken any decision yet”, said a senior officer.
The focus of the railways would be to see if routes catering to migrant workers can be resumed initially and also those that are not travelling or has halts at COVID-19 hotspots, say officials.
If the lockdown opens selectively, then trains will only run in areas where lockdown is lifted, officials said.
Railways is also unlikely to rescind a March 19 order suspending all concessions for passengers except those offered to patients, students and people with disabilities in a hurry, even after the lockdown period to discourage unnecessary travel.
Railways will also come up with protocols that need to be followed once services begin to ensure safety of passengers. They are mulling options like thermal screening and other methods to screen passengers boarding trains.
As part of its preparedness, the Indian Railways has also asked zones to ensure the security of coaches parked in depots.
Officials say once the services resume full throttle, they expect overcrowding at stations and measures have to be chalked out on how to deal with them.
The focus now for railways, the officials said, is to ensure that the rakes of passenger trains which were suspended due to the lockdown had returned to their respective bases, received proper maintenance like charging of batteries, cleaning of bio-toilets, and were ready to return on the tracks once the resumption of services is announced.
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal is keen that the railways concentrate on ensuring that the different railway zones continue their efforts towards contributing towards the larger fight against coronavirus, according to officials.
Goyal has given instructions for proper cleaning of linens, sanitation and proper disposal of biomedical waste that is expected to be generated at hospitals and isolation coaches.
Railways have already committed to converting around 5000 coaches as isolation wards initially which are likely to be sent in rural areas which does not have hospitals, has offered its hospitals for infected patients and are also producing essential medical goods like masks, sanitizers and PPEs.