The Railways has decided to use 60 percent of the 5,200 isolation coaches meant for coronavirus-infected people to run Shramik Special trains.
Officials said that these non-AC coaches will not be reconverted into normal coaches, but will be used as "they are" for these services.
Officials said that since these coaches have been lying idle after being converted into isolation wards and were yet to be deployed, the railways have decided to use them to operate the migrant special services.
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"Board desires that 60 percent of isolation coaches (amounting to 3120 coaches) meant for intervention of COVID-19 cases railways may utilise them for running of Shramik Special trains. It is permitted by board," the order issued on May 21 said.
While making the modified isolation wards, the middle berths had been removed and the lower portion of the compartment plugged by plywood. There is also a provision of partition provided from the aisle side for the isolation of the compartment.
Due to the non-availability of the middle berth, when in use, the trains with these coaches will have lower number of passengers.
Officials said that all the equipment on board the coaches like oxygen tanks, ventilators and other medical items will be removed from them.
One significant change for travellers would be the availability of a proper bathroom and not just a toilet on board. The four toilets in each coach have been converted into two bathrooms by plugging the toilet pan and with proper flooring.
Each bathroom will have a hand shower, a bucket and a mug.
"This is a win-win situation for railways. We are not reconverting the coaches into regular ones, but using them as they are by removing only the medical equipment on board. There is no additional cost that we are incurring. We will also remove the curtains. These coaches will come in multipurpose use since they are currently not being utilised. If and when they are needed as isolation units, they will be shifted for use there," a railway spokesperson said.
The Centre has, however, earmarked 215 railway stations for the deployment of railways' isolation coaches to be used as 'COVID Care Centres' for suspected or confirmed patients categorised as mild or very mild cases.
As of now, none of these coaches are in use.
Officials said that modifying each coach into isolation wards has cost Railways around Rs 2 lakh while reconverting them into regular non-AC coaches would cost the national transporter Rs 1 lakh for each coach.
So far, Railways has operated more than 2000 Shramik Special trains since May 1 to ferry migrant workers home.
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