New Delhi, May 22 (IANS) The Indian Railways which converted 5,231 coaches into isolation wards for COVID-19 patients has now decided to take back 60 per cent of such coaches to be utilised in the Shramik Special trains for the transportation of the stranded migrant workers.
The Railway Board wrote to all zonal railways on May 21 regarding this after the demands for the Shramik Special trains shot up in the last one week. The national transporter is now operating over 200 Shramik Special trains everyday.
The railways initially decided to convert 5,000 coaches for over 80,000 patients and then it also decided to convert 20,000 coaches for over 3.16 lakh COVID patients.
A railway official said 5,231 non-AC coaches were converted into isolation wards for corona patients since these coaches were standing idle for long and in view of the low demand from the state governments for the train coach isolation wards.
However, these isolation coaches, before being put into service in the Shramik Special trains, first need to be restored as normal non-AC compartments, the railway officials said adding that the reconfiguration would take about a week”s time as many changes are required to restore them to the original shape.
The conversion exercise involves many alterations for equipping the coach with a bathroom and other facilities. Now it has to be redone to make it a normal coach with toilets and curtains have to be removed.
As per the latest directive, about 3,000 isolation coaches have to be reconverted into normal coaches to cater to the increased demand for more non-AC trains while the rest will be used as isolation coaches for COVID patients.
The decision comes two days after the railways decided to run 200 special trains on timetable basis across the country from June 1.
The railways started to run the Shramik Special trains from May 1. And till date, the national transporter has operated 2,317 Shramik Special trains and ferried over 31 lakh people to their native places across the country.
The public transporter is launching 100 pairs of popular trains like Duranto, Jan Shatabdi, Purushottam, Lucknow Mail, Vaishali Express and Samprak Kranti Express to facilitate movement of stranded passengers from June 1.
The railways has also started to run 15 pairs of special air conditioned trains from May 12. The railways has faced flak from the opposition parties as well as from the migrant workers, who complained that the ticket price was out of their reach.
Thousands of migrant workers have gone back to their native places on foot or bicycle, tricycle carrying their children, parents in their shoulders.
The railways, which was earlier only taking online bookings for the 15 pairs of the Special AC trains and 200 special trains has started to take bookings from the PRS counters, post offices, Yatri Ticket Suvidha Kendra (YTSK) and authorised agents of IRCTC from May 22.
A senior railway ministry official said that the opening of all these booking facilities once again will mark an important step in the graded restoration of passenger railway services and making the task of ticket booking easy for people from all parts of India in reserved trains.
The official said that running of Shramik Special trains will continue to be handled by the state governments as per the existing protocols.