Global Rail Body UIC Hails Indian Railways’ Efforts To Contain COVID-19


Taking note of the massive efforts undertaken by Indian Railways to fight coronavirus, the International Union of Railways (UIC) has described it as “impressive” and hoped that steps initiated by the State-run transporter in the wake of pandemic become a “success” example.

With the aim to disseminate practices on limiting and managing the disease’s outbreak related to rail transport, UIC, the Paris based worldwide railway organisation, had written to all its members across the globe issuing detailed guidance for the management of COVID-19 and sought their response on the issue.

The guidelines contain steps for cleaning and distribution of railway assets, management of suspected infected passengers on rail premises.

Seeking Indian Railways participation, the international rail transport body has also decided to set up a task force to carry out its work in a coordinated manner.

“On the wake of the latest outbreaks of the COVID-19 globally and giving that railways – as other means of transportations – present a favorable environment for the spread of the disease with higher rates of transmission, the UIC, on-demand of several members, has decided to set up a task force,” Francois Davenenue, Director General of UIC said in a letter to all including Indian Railways.

The task force will address crucial issues including passenger information and awareness campaigns; measures for staff and also steps for operation and business continuity.

The task force will also look into the channel for communication between the different stakeholders including rail community, national and international authorities, and organizations, etc.

Seeking support of Indian Railways, Davenenue said: “The UIC is, thus, urging your support for this cause and welcoming your involvement in the task force.”

Responding to the UIC, Indian Railways nominated RPF DIG Sumati Shandilya to communicate about the steps being taken by it to tackle the corona scare and sent a detailed note accordingly to the concerned person in charge of the task force.

Dwelling upon the series of initiatives undertaken by Indian Railways, Shandilya gave a detailed action plan to UIC highlighting that it is trying to do its “best to break the chain of the spread of the virus in the community”.

Pointing out that India is a populous country where trains run overcrowded, Shandilya stated “In order to ensure social distancing to prevent community spread of the virus, the Indian Railways has suspended its passenger services by issuing an order on February 22, 2020. All passenger trains that originated before 0400 hrs of Indian Standard Time were permitted to run their course. About 13000 passenger trains have stopped running ever since.”

RPF DIG also highlighted about the goods train operation to supply essential goods so that citizens do not face a shortage in the letter.

On the issue of staff communication, Shandilya wrote, “We are thermal scanning our staff, providing them with sanitizers and masks, briefing them about social distancing and advising them to take precautions to protect themselves to break the chain of spread of COVID-19.”

Besides, he mentioned about Indian railways efforts to create adequate quarantine space out of rail buildings and manufacturing of personal protection gear at railways various workshops.

“We have converted our buildings and provided quarantine facilities of 20,000 capacity to the national effort to create sufficient quarantine spaces. Our workshops have been manufacturing sanitizers and masks for use of our staff and others,” Shandilya stated.

Taking cognizance of Indian Railways efforts in the trying time, Philippe Lorand, UIC Senior Advisor Passenger Transport was quite impressed after getting the response and said, “Compared to other countries, it’s very impressive that Indian Railways stopped the train on February 21 and if cooperation is starting now it will be a success,” Shandilya has also drawn UIC attention to Indian Railways latest action plan on converting trains into hospitals on wheels so that additional hospital capacity is created and transported to places where they are needed.

UIC main objectives are to facilitate the sharing of best practices among members (benchmarking) and support them in their efforts to develop new business and new areas of activities among others.