Masks, screening health status, social distancing: Railways prepares for post-lockdown services

Masks, screening health status, social distancing: Railways prepares for post-lockdown services
By Ananya Sengupta

New Delhi, Apr 5 () From encouraging social-distancing on board to asking passengers to wear face masks and using the Arogya Setu app to check their health status before letting them in, the Railways is mulling over several proposals for its post-lockdown operations.


While no decision has yet been taken on when the passenger services, which were suspended in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown from March 25, will be resumed, officials said it is likely to be done in a phased manner after a green signal from the government.

A decision, officials said, is likely to be taken in the coming week on how to restore services.

They said the railways has discussed the option of resuming services only on specific approval of each train from the Railway Board. Suggestions on phase-wise resumption 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," said a senior officer.


In the zones, officials are also identifying trains and routes which can be resumed with the approval of the board. The focus, say officials, is 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.

Officials added that the railways will also have to factor in how the lockdown is eventually opened. If it is selective, then trains will only run in areas where lockdown is lifted, officials said.

The 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.

The Railways, officials said, are also discussing 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 scan passengers boarding trains.


"Once the services are resumed, we are thinking of requesting passengers to wear masks as per the health ministry advisory. We are also thinking of using the Arogya app to check the health and wellness of patients and allow only healthy passengers to board trains," an official said.

As part of its preparedness, the Railways has also asked zones to ensure the security of coaches parked in depots.

Officials said 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 is announced.

Officials also said Railway Minister Piyush Goyal is keen that the railways concentrate on ensuring that the different zones continue their efforts towards contributing in the larger fight against coronavirus.


Railway PSUs have already committed to converting around 5000 coaches as isolation wards initially which are likely to be sent in rural areas that do not have hospitals.

The Railways has also offered its hospitals for infected patients and are producing essential medical goods like masks, sanitisers, PPEs.

The minister has given instructions that proper planning should be done for cleaning of linens, sanitation and proper disposal of biomedical waste that is expected to be generated at hospitals and isolation coaches. ASG TIRTIR

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