Battle-ready Indian Railways has set aside 30,000 non-AC and AC coaches fully functional and properly sanitised with bio-toilets to carry stranded passengers after getting the go-ahead from the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The ministry is set to take a call shortly on the movement of migrant workforce, tourists and students on trains from various states in a graded response to the Covid-19 crisis.
There are about 20,000 non-AC and 10,000 AC coaches along with 1,000 locomotives ready to move, sources close to the development said.
The public transporter has about 10,000 locomotives and 67,400 coaches out of which 35,000 are non-AC coaches.
However, there are operational issues including drafting in staff for running special trains amid the lockdown.
Though the government is yet to decide on resuming train service, a detailed discussion with the Home Ministry officials on Thursday (30 April) was held weighing various options and possibilities of running special trains.
The route identification, stoppages, screening of passengers, accompanying medical staff and other related issues are to be resolved before deciding on train service, railways sources said, adding that lifting of lockdown is also another crucial issue.
Though the railways maintains that there was no decision taken so far regarding restarting passenger trains, a roadmap is being worked out in case the need arises after the ministry’s clearance.
Nevertheless, coaches are being kept ready with proper maintenance of wheel, bearing, suspension system besides bio-toilets. Inoculum toppings have been done to preserve bacteria in all bio-toilets.
Besides bio-toilets, focus is also on the special disinfection exercise with sodium hypochlorite, which is effective in killing bacteria, fungi and viruses, including influenza virus.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has already given clearance for running buses to transport stranded people to various places.
There are many factors to be considered before deciding to run special trains at this juncture. The most important one is how to maintain social distancing in the coaches and also the issue of common toilets, said an official.
The railways will abide by the decision after a detailed guideline is firmed up for restarting passenger service, which is yet to come, the official added.
Through a graded, pre-emptive and pro-active approach, the government is taking several steps along with the states/Union Territories for prevention, containment and management of Covid-19 pandemic. So far, the infection has claimed 1,075 lives (as of 1 May) with more than 33,000 cases reported across the country.