The Ministry of Home Affairs on Monday (May 11) issued a standard operating procedure (SOP) for the movement of people by trains and made it clear that only asymptomatic and confirmed ticket holders will be allowed to travel.
In an order, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said all passengers will have to wear face masks and observe social distancing norms while entering a station and during travel.
“Only those passengers with confirmed e-tickets shall be allowed to enter the station. The movement of the passenger(s) as well as the driver of the vehicle transporting the passenger(s) to and from the railway station shall be allowed on the basis of the confirmed e-ticket,” the order said.
The Ministry of Railways will ensure that passengers shall be compulsorily screened and only those who are asymptomatic will be allowed to enter or board a train.
The home ministry said all passengers shall be provided hand sanitiser at stations and in coaches.
On arrival at their destinations, passengers will have to adhere to such health protocols as prescribed by the state or union territory concerned.
Giving an indication that the government is inclined to allow more trains to ply, the home ministry said the movement of trains shall be permitted by the Ministry of Railways in a graded manner, in consultation with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
“Train schedule, protocols for booking, entry and movement of passengers, and coach service specifications shall be widely publicised by the Ministry of Railways,” the order said.
The health advisories and guidelines will be circulated by the Ministry of Railways through the Information, Education and Communication (IEC) campaign for their staff members and passengers.
The Indian Railways on Monday specified that the special trains will only have AC classes and the fare structure shall be applicable for regular time-tabled Rajdhani trains.
All passengers should reach the station at least 90 minutes in advance to facilitate thermal screening and are advised to download and use Aarogya Setu app, it said.
Regarding ticket cancellations and advance booking, IRCTC said online cancellation will be permitted up to 24 hours before the scheduled departure at a charge of 50 per cent of fare, while the advance reservation period will be maximum of seven days.
No RAC, waiting list tickets or any on board booking by ticket checking staff not permitted, it added.
To curb the risk of infection, the railways has encouraged passengers to carry their own linen, food, drinking water, however, dry, ready-to-eat food, bottled water shall be provided on payment.
For the first time since the lockdown began on March 25, 15 special trains, for which ticket bookings will be available from 4 pm on Monday on the IRCTC website, unlike the regular trains, expect the passengers to bring their own food, blankets, and bedsheets from home.
While biscuits and other pre-packed snacks will be available for purchase in the onboard pantry car, they will be sold only to those who need them, similar to that on flights.
The trains are modelled on the lines of Rajdhani Express, in terms of fare, speed, and route, however, disabling the factor of including food charges in the tiket fare.
To date, the Centre has planned to run the trains with full capacity and not cap the occupancy to two-thirds as for Shramik Specials to ensure social distancing in coaches.
To avoid the risk of spreading the infection, the toilets in the train will not be cleaned by onboard staff as the housekeeping services will remain unavailable on trains originating from Delhi due to unavailability of contract labourers.
Trains from the national capital, which the railways has termed a “gradual resumption of passenger services,” will be heading to several destinations including Dibrugarh, Agartala, Howrah, Patna, Bilaspur, Ranchi, Bhubaneswar, Secunderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram, Madgaon, Mumbai Central, Ahmedabad, and Jammu Tawi and back.
“Indian Railways plans to gradually restart passenger train operations from 12th May, 2020… Thereafter, Indian Railways shall start more special services on new routes,” the Railway Ministry said in a statement. “It will be mandatory for the passengers to wear face cover and undergo screening at departure and only asymptomatic passengers will be allowed to board the train,” the statement read.
Even as the country has started to revise the lockdown relaxations, due to be lifted on May 17, the interstate public transport and domestic and international flights are still grounded.
(With inputs from agencies)