Indian Railways on Tuesday said it will soon run more special trains, in order to increase inter-state and intra-state mobility options for individuals, as the country enters into the Unlock 4.0 phase.
“More special trains are being planned. State governments are being consulted,” an official spokesperson said on Tuesday. Reportedly, the Railway Ministry would be seeking permission from the Home Ministry for this, and the said trains would be designated as ‘special trains’. While around 100 trains would be announced initially after getting a go-ahead signal from the Home Ministry, this would be followed by 20 more trains to facilitate travel on certain routes where trains are already operational.
The development comes in the backdrop of the Union home ministry on Saturday allowing a host of activities such as social, cultural, religious, and political congregations with certain restrictions from 21 September, and commencing metro rail operations from 7 September in a graded manner.
Indian railways had suspended all passenger trains due to the imposition of a nationwide lockdown from March 25. However, it resumed services in a staggered manner, with Shramik trains to help stranded migrant workers reach their home states from May 1. Thereafter, it also started 230 trains across the country. All other passenger and mail express trains remained canceled.
At present, 230 special trains are being operated, which will continue to operate, in addition to the new ones to facilitate travel between the states. While 30 Rajdhani-type trains were started initially after relaxing the lockdown, the Indian Railways added 200 more trains since June 1.
For those who are traveling during the current pandemic times, the national transporter has made it mandatory to wear face masks at the station premises and also during the journey. To undergo thermal screening at stations, all travelers or railway users have to reach the station at least 90 minutes in advance. Only the ones who are found to be asymptomatic are permitted by the railway authorities to board the train.
Apart from these measures, all railway users also have to observe social distancing. They also have to install the Aarogya Setu mobile app. To prevent novel coronavirus from spreading, Indian Railways is not providing pillows, blankets, curtains, and other linen items to passengers.
Recently, a report stated that even after normal train services of Indian Railways resume after the COVID-19 pandemic, AC passengers may not get pillows, blankets, sheets, hand towels, and other linen items during the train journey. Indian Railways is planning to stop providing these items after the resumption of normal passenger train services. However, no formal decision has been taken in this regard yet. Apart from linen items, cooked food is not being served at present on trains as instead of cooked meals, the national transporter is opting for ready-to-eat and packed food items. It is being said that, once the train services resume, this exercise is likely to be followed as well.
Apart from this, metro rails services are also set to resume in a calibrated manner from September 7.
While the national transporter was ready to run more trains across the country, states such as Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, among others had requested Indian Railways to cancel some passenger trains, amid a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases. Occupancy in the trains, demand from, and the status of the spread of coronavirus across the country will be key determinants for running more trains in the future, railway board chairman Vinod Kumar Yadav had said earlier.