Indian Railways has decided to run parcel vans to keep up uninterrupted flow of essential commodities in the country during the ongoing lockdown to contain COVID-19 outbreak, officials said Sunday.
By suspending passenger trains from March 22, the Railways had also by default suspended parcel vans attached to them carrying perishable items, mostly daily essential needs like vegetables, dairy items, and fish.
Officials said special Parcel express trains shall run on the New Delhi-Gauhati, New Delhi-Mumbai, New Delhi-Kalyan, New Delhi-Howrah, Chandigarh-Jaipur and Moga-Chhangsari routes.
They said it was necessary to resume parcel van services because essential commodities were in short supply in local markets as most of the labour engaged in loading, unloading had returned to their villages owing to the lockdown.
With ample availability of parcel vans, sitting-cum-luggage rakes and locomotives because of the suspension of passenger services, railways will now run such vans on a timetable on identified routes. Lack of traffic on tracks will also make it easy to send parcel vans across speedily.
It has invited bookings for parcel vans, which will carry essential items like medical supplies, medical equipment, food in small parcel sizes will be transported in them.
Respective divisions will now need to coordinate with local district administration and ensure deployment of labourers at parcel depots and goods-shed to ensure smooth loading and unloading of parcel vans.
Also, until the lockdown remains, railways could also utilise spare passenger coaches for temporarily housing labourers.
Northern Railways has decided to run Parcel Special Trains to carry small quantities of essential items like dairy products, medical equipments and medicines, groceries, edible oil , other food items.