The Indian Railways on Sunday said it planned to restart passenger services in a phased manner — initially with 15 pairs of trains — from Tuesday onwards, almost 50 days after the services were stopped amid COVID-19 lockdown.
The announcement comes even as the Centre has extended the lockdown till May 17 to contain the spread of the virus.
To begin with, the 15 pairs of trains, meaning a total of 30 return journeys, would be run as special trains from the New Delhi station connecting Dibrugarh, Agartala, Howrah, Patna, Bilaspur, Ranchi, Bhubaneswar, Secunderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram, Madgaon, Mumbai Central, Ahmedabad and Jammu Tawi.
Following this, the Railways would start more special services on new routes, “based on the available coaches after reserving 20,000 coaches for COVID-19 care centres and adequate number of coaches being reserved to enable operation of up to 300 trains every day as ‘Shramik Specials’ for stranded migrants,” said an official statement.
The reservation for these trains would start on May 11 from 4 p.m. and would be available only on the IRCTC website. Ticket booking counters at stations would remain closed and counter tickets, including platform tickets, would not be issued.
“Only passengers with valid confirmed tickets will be allowed to enter the stations,” the railways said. It would be mandatory for passengers to wear face cover and undergo screening at departure. “Only asymptomatic passengers will be allowed to board the train,” it said.
A Railway spokesperson said only AC coaches would be run and the fares would be equal to that of equivalent Rajdhani trains.
Details of the train schedule along with more details would be issued to due course.
In a separate release, the Railways said it had run a total of 366 ‘Shramik Special’ trains till Sunday afternoon. These trains had ferried migrants to Tiruchirappalli, Titlagarh, Barauni, Khandwa, Jagannathpur, Khurda Road, Prayagraj, Chhapra, Balia, Gaya, Purnia, Varanasi, Darbhanga, Gorakhpur, Lucknow, Jaunpur, Hatia, Basti, Katihar, Danapur, Muzzaffarpur and Saharsa.
“In these trains, a maximum of around 1,200 passengers can travel observing social distancing. Proper screening of passengers is ensured before boarding the train. During the journey, passengers are given free meals and water,” the railways said.