The second wave of the coronavirus pandemic has left many states grappling for essential health infrastructure. From a shortage of oxygen to ventilators to critical drugs, states are working in tandem with the Centre to rebuild the state health infrastructure to tackle the surge in cases at the earliest.
Amidst several initiatives by the Centre, the Railway Ministry has assured aid by running ‘Oxygen Express’ trains for the quick transportation of liquid medical oxygen and oxygen cylinders across the country after several states reported a shortage.
The Indian Railways has charted out key corridors in the country and has created a green corridor at the railway stations for the fast movement of the train to ensure uninterrupted supply of oxygen as the nation battles the surge in new coronavirus cases amid the second wave.
The Railway Ministry released a press note detailing the arrangement.
Railways getting fully ready to Transport Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO) and Oxygen Cylinders— Ministry of Railways (@RailMinIndia) April 18, 2021
Railways geared up to run OXYGEN Express
Green Corridor being created to fast movement of Oxygen Express Trainshttps://t.co/zSzK3noPRl pic.twitter.com/nENZikqEnV
The Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra state governments had approached the Railways Ministry to explore whether liquid medical oxygen tankers could be moved by the rail network, considering the acute shortage in oxygen supply faced by the states.
At the behest of the state governments, the Railways immediately sprung into action and explored the technical feasibility of transporting liquid medical oxygen using trains. “It has to be transported through roll-on-roll-off service with road tankers placed on flat wagons”, informed an official.
Subsequently, on April 18 a trial was organized by the Western Railway at Boisar where a loaded tanker was placed on a flat DBKM wagon and all the required measurements were taken.
Here’s how the ‘Oxygen Express’ will work
As per official statements, empty tankers will begin their journey from Kalamboli and Boisar railway stations near Mumbai on Monday to load liquid medical oxygen from Vizag, Jamshedpur, Rourkela and Bokaro.
Sharing a video of the transportation process on Twitter, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal wrote, “Roll-on-Roll-off oxygen trucks getting loaded for Oxygen Express. Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership, the Government of India is committed to doing everything possible to help COVID-19 patients.”
Roll on Roll off Oxygen trucks getting loaded for Oxygen Express. Under PM @NarendraModi ji’s leadership, Govt of India is committed to doing everything possible to help COVID-19 patients. pic.twitter.com/dFgHeKLRxr— Piyush Goyal (@PiyushGoyal) April 18, 2021
A railway official shared, “It was decided that the tankers would be organized by Transport Commissioner, Maharashtra. These empty tankers would be moved from Kalamboli/Boisar, Railway stations in and near Mumbai, and sent to Vizag and Jamshedpur/Rourkela/Bokaro, for loading of liquid medical oxygen tankers from there.”
“Since the first empty tankers will move on April 19, we hope to begin operations of Oxygen Express over the next few days. We would be able to send oxygen wherever there is such demand. Green corridor is being created for fast movement of Oxygen Express trains,” announced the official.
Instructions have been issued to zonal railways to ensure readiness to receive the trailers and load them. Ramps have to be built at Vizag, Angul and Bhilai and the existing ramp at Kalamboli is to be strengthened.
Over 4000 coaches converted to ‘corona care’ units
In a bid to tackle the sudden surge in the new coronavirus cases, Indian Railways has turned 4,002 railway coaches into Covid care units. The Railways informed that 4,002 Covid care Coches are available in 16 zones and can be made available for the state governments on request.
Corona Care coaches in Nandurbar
Out of the 4000 coaches, around 94 coaches have been deployed at Nandurbar, Maharashtra. Union Minister Piyush Goyal in a tweet informed with a video about the isolation coaches built in Nandurbar, Maharashtra with extensive provisions like independent isolation wards and temperature-controlled coaches for COVID-19 patients. The facility makes use of the railway station premises.
Railways has started operating isolation coaches in Nandurbar, Maharashtra with extensive provisions for COVID-19 patients— Piyush Goyal (@PiyushGoyal) April 19, 2021
This will ensure:
🚑 Ease of movement of ambulances
🏥 Complete medical facilities
🔂 Independent isolation wards
💧Temperature controlled coaches pic.twitter.com/brs10dkWWT
Delhi requests for coaches
As per a Financial Express report, the Delhi government has urged Piyush Goyal-led Indian Railways to arrange up to 5,000 beds by deploying COVID-19 care coaches at the Shakur Basti railway station and Anand Vihar railway station in Delhi, as the cases surge in the national capital.
Delhi Chief Secretary Vijay Kumar Dev in his letter to the Chairman of Railway Board Suneet Sharma has requested to convert the premises of the two railway stations to Covid centres with full logistical support, oxygen facilities, requisite medical as well as paramedical staff gen facilities etc. on an emergent basis.
Govt under PM @NarendraModi leading the fight against COVID-19: 50 COVID-19 isolation coaches with 800 beds ready at Shakur Basti Station & 25 coaches will be available at Anand Vihar Station in Delhi. Railways can setup >3 lakh isolation beds across the country on States’ demand pic.twitter.com/b9ehFnEgfI— Piyush Goyal (@PiyushGoyal) April 18, 2021
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal informed that acting upon the request, 50 COVID-19 isolation coaches with 800 beds have been readied at Shakur Basti Station & 25 coaches will be available soon at Anand Vihar Station in Delhi.