The Indian Railways will run fully air conditioned passenger trains from Tuesday (May 12) after about a month and a half of shutting the service in its 167-year history.
Initially 15 set of trains will be started and online bookings for these will begin from 4 pm on Monday (May 11) on the website of the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), the government said in a statement on Sunday.
“Indian Railways plans to gradually restart passenger train operations from May 12 with 15 pairs of trains (30 return journeys),” the government said.
These special trains will be run from New Delhi, and connect Dibrugarh, Agartala, Howrah, Patna, Bilaspur, Bhubaneswar, Secunderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Ranchi, Thiruvananthapuram, Madgaon, Mumbai Central, Ahmedabad, and Jammu Tawi. Fares will be equivalent to that of Rajdhani trains.
“Ticket booking counters at railway stations shall remain closed and no counter tickets (including platform tickets) shall be issued. Only passengers with valid confirmed tickets will be allowed to enter stations. It will be mandatory for the passengers to wear face coverings and undergo screenings at departure,” the statement said, adding that only those who don’t show any signs of coronavirus disease would be allowed to board.
Officials indicated that Aarogya Setu app may become compulsory for travellers on these special trains.
Also, there would be no provision for tatkal/premium tatkal ticket bookings or current bookings.
Shutting passenger services had lead to stoppage of around 12,500 trains on a daily basis – including 9,000 passenger trains and 3,500 mail/express trains. The Railways, however, has been running freight services.
Gradually, the Railways will add new routes, based on available coaches after reserving 20,000 coaches for Covid-19 care centres and these added special trains will have both AC and non-AC coaches. Adequate numbers of coaches are also being reserved to enable operation of up to 300 Shramik Special trains every day.
The trains to transport stranded migrants, pilgrims, tourists, and students were started on May 1. Till May 10, 366 Shramik Special trains were run, carrying over 400,000 passengers. In Shramik Specials, a maximum of 1,200 passengers can travel by maintaining social distancing norms. These trains had run into controversy over who is going to bear the expense.
Initially, labourers were being charged sleeper-class fares of super-fast trains and an additional Rs 50. However, after the Congress offered to pay for the tickets, the central government came out with a statement that the Railways would bear 85 per cent of the fare, while the states would pay for the remaining 15 per cent.