Coronavirus update: The railways ministry has decided to set up a six-member ‘Covid Response Team’ at the centre comprising Executive Directors from the Railway Board.
Indian Railways on Tuesday cancelled at least 85 trains across several major routes and ordered a sharp hike in platform tickets from Rs 10 to Rs 50 at important railway stations. The twin moves come against the backdrop of efforts to reduce crowding to stop spread of coronavirus.
Maharashtra has seen the maximum number of Covid-19 cases with 39 patients testing positive till date. India has reported 3 deaths due to coronavirus with total positive cases up to 137 till Tuesday. A 64-year-old patient from Maharashtra admitted to Mumbai’s Kasturba Hospital had died early Tuesday morning.
The spread of the infection, coupled with stress on social isolation, has led to a spike in instances of passengers cancelling tickets in Western, Central and East Coast railways.
The national transporter has seen a jump in average ticket cancellation over the last few days.
In the East Coast Railway alone, the government said more than 1 lakh tickets had been cancelled over the last six days. This is 67 per cent more than the tickets cancelled during the same period last year.
Across the country, he national transporter has seen a jump of cancellation up to 80% compared to the same period last year.
In a urgent review meeting was held by union railway minister Piyush Goyal late Tuesday, with the railway board chairman, Railway General Managers, and DRMs to review the preparedness for Covid-19.
The ministry has also decided to set up a six-member ‘Covid Response Team’ at the centre comprising Executive Directors from the Railway Board.
“This team will coordinate all Covid-19 Preparedness Activities, monitor progress through online dashboard and other forums, resolve issues of railway zones/PUs, issue advisories and media briefs and prepare positions for review meetings at various forums. One nodal officer from each zone will serve as point of contact for all Covid-19 preparedness measures and will be in constant touch with the Covid-19 Response team of the Railway Board. Online monitoring system has been created to do real time monitoring of the efforts across the country,” the ministry said.
The national carrier on Tuesday also decided to increase the price of platform tickets. In an advisory, the railways told all divisional railway managers to temporarily hike ticket prices at important stations that deal with large number of visitors to Rs 50 to check unnecessary crowding at stations.
“Zonal Railways are being advised to discourage accumulation of crowds at major railway stations by increasing the price of platform tickets. Passengers are being advised to avoid non-essential train journeys. Before commencing the journey, passengers should ensure that they do not have running fever. At any point of journey if a passenger feels that he has fever, he can contact the railway staff for medical attention and further assistance,” a spokesperson for the ministry of railways said.
The national transporter till Tuesday has decided to cancel total of 85 trains to “contain the effects of Coronavirus” till March 31 including 23 trains were by the Central Railway zone including long distance trains including the Hazrat Nizamuddin Rajdhani Express from Mumbai to Delhi, Mumbai to Howrah Duronto Express among others. 35 trips of 10 trains stood cancelled by the Western Railways, 29 by South Central Railways, 9 by South Eastern Railways, 5 by Northern Railways, 4 by North Western Railways and 5 by East Coast Railways.
The railways ministry said the decision to hike the price of platform tickets is being taken across railway zones at a “local level” by the zonal Division Railway Managers (DRMs) who have been empowered to regulate the price of platform tickets.
Prices of platform tickets were last revised in 2015 from Rs 5 to Rs 10. The 2015 railways ministry order also delegated the power to raise price of platform tickets beyond Rs 10 to DRMs to regulate rush at platforms during specific requirements like fairs or rallies.
“The decision has been taken across zones to curb crowds at certain major stations. We have received information from Western Railways increasing charges for about 250 major stations in six divisions including Mumbai, Vadodara, Ahmedabad, Ratlam, Rajkot, Bhavnagar. Central Railways has raised the tickets at 174 stations. In zones such as the West Central Railway zone too, the decision has been taken to increase charges to Rs 50 in Jabalpur and Bhopal division,” a spokesperson for the ministry of railways said.
Western Railways said the decision was taken to “restrict/discourage the number of passengers in railway premises including platform and Foot Over Bridges (FOBs) to prevent danger of effects of the Coronavirus.”
The Maharashtra government on Tuesday clarified that public transport will remain open.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, however, announced that the decision to allow trains and buses will be reviewed if “people don’t heed the government’s advice” and do not avoid unnecessary travel.