New Delhi, May 23 (IANS) Railways Board Chairman V.K. Yadav on Saturday said that the Railways will utilise about 50 per cent of the over 5,200 coaches -- modified to set up isolation wards for coronavirus patients -- in Shramik Special trains that ferry stuck migrants to their native places across India.
Addressing a press conference here, Yadav said: "We prepared over 5,000 coaches as isolation coaches to admit 80,000 patients, if required. We have now decided to use 50 per cent of these isolation coaches in Shramik trains."
He said that if more isolation ward coaches are required in the country, these bogies will be brought back to be used for the healthcare purpose.
The railways initially decided to convert 5,000 coaches to lodge over 80,000 patients in case of need. Later, it decided to convert 20,000 coaches to house over 3.16 lakh COVID-19 patients in case such a situation arose.
According to railway officials, 5,231 non-AC coaches were converted into isolation wards for corona patients but these were lying idle for long in view of low demand from states.
However, these isolation coaches, before these are put back into service, first need to be restored to their original condition to be used as normal non-AC compartments, entailing removal of curtains and equipping these with bathrooms and other facilities.
IANS had reported on Friday that the railways plans to put 60 per cent of the isolation coaches in Shramik trains.
The Railway Board wrote to all zonal railways on the issue of isolation coaches on May 21 after demand for Shramik trains shot up in the last one week. Railways is now operating over 200 Shramik trains everyday.
Highlighting other initiatives, the Chairman said: "We have created 17 hospitals with total 5,000 beds for Covid-19 patients' care. As many as 33 hospitals have been converted into Covid-19 care blocks and quarantine facilities for 10,500 patients across the country on railways properties like coaching institutes.
He said that the railways had made over 1.2 lakh PPE kits, face masks and hand sanitisers at its different production units.
Till date, railways had provided 47 lakh meals to those residing near railway stations across the country.
Yadav clarified that only passengers with confirmed tickets will be allowed to travel and not those with RAC or waiting tickets.
The Railway Board Chairman said that freight operations were about 70 per cent of what was recorded at this point in time last year.
"Bookings are being monitored. About 17 lakh tickets have been booked in the last few days, which are only 30 per cent of the total capacity of these trains. A few trains have over 100 per cent and 90 per cent bookings," he said.
As for the West Bengal's Chief Secretary writing to the Railways to not allow train services in that state till May 26, he said: "The Chief Secretary wrote to us in the wake of cyclone Amphan. Restoration work is since going on. Once we again receive a request from the state government we will start running trains. We are fully prepared."