More trains at original fare within a month if COVID eases further: SCR GM

More passenger trains including suburban train services like the MMTS on original railway fares are likely to happen within a month or so, if there is no spike in COVID-19 cases or a third wave, informed South Central Railway (SCR) General Manager Gajanan Mallya on Wednesday.

“It has been through a harrowing 20 months of COVID but we never stopped working even in the peak first and second wave with our frontline staff putting their lives at risk. Therefore, we had to run special trains affixing ‘zero’ to the original express and other trains because of limited halts and varied number of cases and protocols at different places. Now, with situation easing, we are running upto 85% of scheduled trains and more will be operated as it improves further,” he said.

Addressing a virtual press conference from Rail Nilayam, the GM said railway personnel have been given powers to fine passengers not adhering to COVID protocols like face masks, while temperature checks are being done for everyone getting in. Ban on selling of cooked stuff is continuing and despite AC passengers demand, the bed linen is still not being supplied because of the fear of spread of virus. As and when the situation eases further with increased vaccination and herd immunity, it may be considered, he said.

“We will continue to practice COVID appropriate behaviour and have ensured express trains are filled only through reservation. For unreserved, we are monitoring the waiting list and if need be, we will run clone trains when there is heavy demand during this festival towards Visakhapatnam, Tirupati, Nellore and others,” he explained. Railway security force personnel will be present in strength at originating stations for orderly passenger movement.

MMTS train services will be increased by 20/30 more in addition to the 55 as also suburban services towards Bollarum and Medchal in a ‘couple of months’ with more patronage as it is reached 60% . “We are catering to peak hours presently and we are working on introducing more services. We have not stopped work on MMTS phase 2 despite pending payment issue with the State Government,” explained Mr. Mallya.

About 97% staff had received first dose of COVID vaccine, about 50% second dose and upto 70% dependents. Special vaccination camps and trains are being run to reach out to staff on duty. SCR lost 300 personnel due to COVID and employment to the children on compassionate grounds is being given with 85% work completed and others with minor children have been given written assurances. Railway hospitals, well equipped with oxygen tanks and medicines, have dealt with 22,000 COVID cases and there has been a 97% recovery rate, the GM added.

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