An ‘ oxygen express ’ train carrying about 70 tonnes of medical oxygen is expected to reach Delhi by Monday night, the Indian Railways said on Sunday.
The train, which is the first such service for the national capital currently facing severe shortage of medical oxygen, will depart from the Jindal Steel Works plant in Raigarh, Chhattisgarh, on Sunday night.
“We will move about four tankers of liquid medical oxygen from the Jindal plant in Raigarh...the tankers are getting loaded there. We have already provided our wagons, which are ready, and as soon as the tankers are loaded, they will be moved tonight,” Railway Board Chairman and CEO Suneet Sharma said in a press conference.
He added that the tankers will reach Delhi by Monday night. In addition, the Railways has also chalked out plans to transport medical oxygen from Angul, Kalingnagar and Rourkela to Delhi and the National Capital Region, Mr. Sharma said, adding that the Delhi government has been advised to get road tankers ready to obtain the oxygen.
The national capital has been grappling with shortage in oxygen supply for the past several days amid a huge surge in COVID-19 cases, with several hospitals even taking to Twitter to send out SOSes for liquid medial oxygen.
Mr. Sharma said that, so far, two Oxygen Express trains have completed their journey to Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh . Further, while one such express with four loaded tankers is currently on its way back to Uttar Pradesh, one train with five oxygen tankers is travelling towards Bokaro for procuring oxygen. Each tanker carries about 15-16 tonnes of liquid medical oxygen.
A Railways official said that the Delhi government in its letter to the Railways has asked it to load liquid medical oxygen from nine locations. The Railways has informed the State government that it will be able to transport liquid medical oxygen from seven of these locations. “The other two sites were not feasible due to technical reasons. They were also requested to arrange tankers and place indent at stations. The Assistant Divisional Railway Manager, Delhi is being nominated as nodal officer for the purpose,” the official added.
On deployment of its COVID Care Isolation Coaches, Mr. Sharma said that about 3,816 coaches are available, and are being provided to States according to demand. In Delhi, 50 coaches with 800 beds are deployed at Shakurbasti station where four patients are currently admitted, and 25 coaches with 400 beds have been made available at Anand Vihar terminal.
In Maharashtra, 21 coaches with 378 beds are positioned at Nandurbar and currently 55 patients are admitted at this facility. Twenty coaches have been positioned at the Bhopal station; 50 coaches have been readied for deployment in Punjab; and 20 coaches positioned for deployment in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh.
“On demand of State Governments, these isolation centres will cater to needs of patients with mild and moderate symptoms...The Railways takes all efforts to provide catering arrangements to these patients and maintain hygiene in these coaches,” the Indian Railways said.
Asked if any State had requested curbing of train services due to rising COVID-19 cases, Mr. Sharma replied that none had directly approached Railways for this as inter-State movement of trains is governed by the MHA. “... some States have informed us that incoming passengers need to have a negative RT-PCR report or vaccination certificate...These details we update on our ticketing website so the prospective passengers know about it,” he said.